4 Most Common Causes of Work Injuries
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4 Most Common Causes of Work Injuries

by | Mar 23, 2020 | Workers' Compensation

Injured worker lying on railroad tracks after a work accident, coworker kneeling beside him and calling 911.

No one anticipates becoming the victim of a workplace injury. However, the sad truth is that workplace accidents and injuries are far from uncommon. In fact, the National Safety Council estimates that a staggering 4.6 million workers are injured on the job every year. 

While it’s clear that some jobs are more dangerous than others—think logging, construction, and farming—accidents and injuries can happen in any industry. Even office workers have the potential to slip, fall, or develop repetitive strain injuries over time.  

It may also come as a surprise that the most common work-related injuries don’t involve dramatic explosions or even motor vehicle accidents. On the contrary, most work-related injuries result from ordinary activities, such as typing, walking, and lifting heavy objects. 

Pie chart of the most common causes of work injuries.

click to enlarge

4 Leading Causes of Workplace Injuries

According to the National Safety Council, the top four causes of work injuries include heavy lifting and repetitive movements; contact with objects and equipment; slips, trips, and falls; and transportation accidents. 

  1. Heavy lifting and repetitive movements

Broadly categorized as “overexertion,” injuries caused by repetitive movements are common because they can result from such a wide range of jobs and activities. 

For example, anyone with a desk job may be susceptible to developing repetitive stress injuries like tendinitis or carpal tunnel syndrome. The risk is even greater for assembly line workers, tailors, bakers, and hairstylists—all of whom repeat the same small movements every day.

Although these injuries are not life threatening, they have the potential to be quite disruptive. Symptoms of repetitive stress injuries include pain or tenderness, stiffness, and tingling or numbness, which can make an individual’s job difficult to perform. While symptoms tend to escalate gradually, they are more likely to persist if the condition goes untreated. 

Also included in the overexertion category, lifting (and lowering) heavy objects is a major cause of back and neck injuries. Known as non-impact injuries, these types of conditions often result from excessive physical exertion. 

  1. Contact with objects and equipment

Jobs that involve the use of industrial machinery put workers at a greater risk of injury. Automatic gears, conveyor belts, and other heavy equipment are capable of causing serious injury. Even when employees do everything in their power to protect their safety, it only takes a moment of distraction or a slight malfunction for equipment to inflict harm on an unsuspecting worker.

Unfortunately, these accidents happen with startling frequency. According to the National Safety Council, 235,740 workers sustained injuries in accidents related to machinery or equipment in 2018. 

These accidents occur most often in factories, on construction sites, or near farm equipment. Common injuries include lacerations, punctures, and cuts.

  1. Slipping or falling

It’s estimated that slips, trips, and falls account for 26.7 percent of occupational injuries. While those who work on elevated surfaces like scaffolds and roofs run the highest risk, it’s important to realize that slip-and-fall accidents can take place in other settings, too.

Employees can slip or fall in any work environment, including offices, restaurants, grocery stores, hotels—really, the list is endless. 

Some of the most common causes for workplace falls are: 

  • Wet or oily surfaces 
  • Weather hazards, such as icy steps or walkways 
  • Loose rugs
  • Poor lighting 
  • Uncovered cables 
  • Uneven walking surfaces 
  • Clutter 
  1. Transportation Accidents 

Given that motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of work-related fatalities, it comes as no surprise that they cause a good portion of workplace injuries as well. In fact, the CDC reported that work-related traffic accidents resulted in 29,000 worker fatalities between 2003 and 2018. 

Roadway injuries may be considered work-related if: 

  • An employee runs errands for their employer 
  • A worker’s duties include making deliveries 
  • An occupation involves driving for a living 
  • A worker travels for their job and has no fixed office 
  • An employer pays for their worker’s travel time to and from home

5 Tips for Preventing Workplace Injuries

While all employees have the right to work in a safe environment, workers also have a responsibility to take an active role in keeping themselves safe. There are a number of things workers should do to minimize their likelihood of sustaining an injury on the job.

  1. Workers are encouraged to take regular breaks from their work activities to avoid developing a repetitive strain injury. Taking a few minutes to stretch or walk around helps prevent muscles from becoming overstressed. 
  2. Workers who do a lot of lifting or pulling at work should avoid bending, reaching, and twisting while lifting heavy objects. Remember to lift with the legs, rather than the back. 
  3. Employees working with or near machines or equipment should always wear high-visibility protective gear. Hard hats, safety goggles, gloves, earplugs, and shoes help keep workers safe if an accident occurs. 
  4. If workers notice a pattern of bad housekeeping practices around their workplace, they should notify their employer. Many slips and falls could be avoided by ensuring floors are clean and free of clutter. 
  5. Workers who drive for their job should exercise care and follow traffic laws at all times. It is also good practice for drivers to take a break every two hours to stretch and rehydrate. 

Although some accidents can’t be avoided, taking these measures will help employees reduce their risk of sustaining some of the most common work injuries. 

What to Do After Sustaining an Injury

Accidents can happen even in the “safest” workplaces. Therefore, it’s critical for all employees to understand their rights if they are injured. 

For example, most injured workers are entitled to receive compensation for medical treatment and lost wages. Both Minnesota and Wisconsin laws require employers to carry Workers’ Compensation insurance, which is designed to take care of employees suffering from work-related health conditions. 

If you have been hurt at work, consider calling an experienced Workers’ Compensation attorney to help you file your claim. A trusted, local lawyer will be able to guide you through the process and ensure you receive the compensation you need to recover from your injuries.

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