We go to work to bring in an income. We go to work to spend time with others. And we go to work to engage with tasks that, hopefully, we enjoy and experience satisfaction from.
We don’t go to work to put our lives at risk, but unfortunately, according to statistics, many of us do.
According to the 2019 Workplace Safety Index, billions of pounds are spent each year in compensation costs, as injured workers make claims against their employers. Chances are, you might have experienced a work-related injury yourself, or you may have witnessed an accident in your workplace. You might also be fearful that your life is at risk, especially if your employer is more than a little lax when it comes to health and safety laws.
It’s a scary thought to think that so many of us are put in harm’s way on a daily basis. According to this blog post at Arbill, 13 people in America go to work each day and never come home, and on an annual basis, around 3.3 million people suffer from workplace injuries from which they never recover. Of course, it isn’t always the employer’s fault. Negligence on the side of the employee can be to blame in some cases, and then there are external factors that are beyond either the employer’s or employee’s control.
So, while we don’t want to ruin your day as you put on your jacket to go to work, we do think it’s worth highlighting the work-related injuries that are commonplace each year. With reference to the facts provided by the Workplace Safety Index, we will list the top 10 causes below. Have a read, and then take extra special care at work today, no matter what industry you are working within.
Not only is this the number one cause of a workplace injury, but it is also the most costly. According to studies, injuries sustained by overexertion have cost businesses $13.1B in compensation claims.
Within the facts recorded, overexertion has stemmed from pulling, pushing, carrying, holding, and throwing activities at work. Such injuries can be common in any industry, especially where there has been a lack of training in heavy lifting techniques, or where humans carry out work that should instead be carried out by machinery and other types of lifting equipment.
Thinking about your own job, have you ever strained your back because you have been asked to lift a heavy box? Have you ever experienced aches and pains in your arms after moving large items around? Such instances are serious and may require a workers’ comp doctor before the pain you experience gets worse.
Be mindful at work then, and if you are asked to exert your body in a way that could injure you, be sure to question your employer, as they should really be putting in place systems that will alleviate the risk of personal harm.
#2: Falling on the same level
In other words, slips and trips! $10.4B was spent on workers’ compensation claims in 2019 because of falls, and it’s the second most common cause of workplace injuries today. Needless to say, a fall could result in an injury to any part of the body, so care needs to be taken by both the employer and the employee. So, where there have been spills, any mess needs to be cleaned up properly before somebody slips on the slippery surface.
Signs need to be put up to alert employees to slip risk, be that for spillages, or for floors that have been newly polished. And going beyond slippery floors, we should also remember other causes of falls, such as cables that haven’t been secured properly, or other tripping hazards, such as boxes and pieces of debris.
Within your workplace, safety guidelines need to be put in place to prevent the risk of harm. And as an employee, you should be attentive to the dangers around you. You should also take responsibility for the environment you work in, making sure that you clean up any mess and other potential hazards.
#3: Being struck by an object or piece of equipment
This costly accident – $5.2B in compensation claims – can largely be attributed to the construction industry, where the chances of an object falling from height are high. This is just one cause behind traumatic brain injuries in the industry. However, many workers are at risk of being struck by an object or piece of equipment, such as those who work among high shelves in warehouses, or in any occupation where items are stored above the head level.
To prevent such injuries, personal protection gear needs to be implemented, and care needs to be taken by those workers who are stacking pieces of equipment, or who are carrying out jobs at height.
Within your workplace, your employer needs to provide you with the necessary safety gear if this type of injury is common. And you need to be mindful of your surroundings, and the health and safety of your fellow workers, so be diligent in the work you do.
#4: Falls to a lower level
Again, this can be attributed to the construction industry, where employees are often working on elevated areas, such as platforms and ladders. However, any job where working at height is expected, such as those within roofing or fire careers, are in danger of a fall. And even those of us who have to walk up and down the stairs are at risk, especially where slippery surfaces are concerned.
The risks of this type of accident can be minimized through the relevant safety gear, such as harnesses for those working on scaffolds. Employee diligence is also important, as the more aware they are of their surroundings, the safer they will be.
So, how safe do you feel in your workplace? If personal protection gear hasn’t been provided, and it is expected within your line of work, then you need to speak to your employer before putting yourself at further risk. Remind them of the $4.9B that has been spent in compensation claims.
#5: Reaction injuries
Costing businesses $3.7B in compensation claims, this type of injury is frighteningly common. These are injuries that can cause muscle and body trauma and other medical issues.
They can be caused by excessive bending, crawling, and kneeling. And they can happen when an employee has to use a certain part of their body for a long length of time, such as when crawling through tight spaces.
These injuries can be hard to prevent, although employers can ensure that their workers don’t have to spend too much time exerting their bodies. As an employee, you can also use your common sense.
If you start to feel pain when bending or kneeling, or some other such movement, stop and rest, and report how you feel to your employer if necessary.
#6: Auto accidents
Auto accidents have caused businesses $2.7B in compensation claims. These are from employees who drive for business purposes, such as delivery drivers, couriers, and haulage carriers.
Those employees who have to drive to and from business meetings are also in danger on the roads and may be at risk of an accident. According to road safety statistics, nearly 1.25 million people die on our roads each year, and between 20-50 million people suffer injuries. We are all at risk then, and that risk is heightened if we are required to drive for work purposes.
Thankfully, there are many employers can to do to protect their employees, such as fitting out their company vehicles with safety equipment and ensuring they are well-maintained. And as the employee, there is much you can do to protect yourself from harm. This includes reporting any mechanical faults to your employer, and by driving responsibly on the roads.
#7: Slipping and tripping without falling
We don’t always fall after slipping on a floor, or after tripping over an object. Sometimes, we are able to recover, though that doesn’t mean we go without injury. We can strain our bodies, and this can have long-lasting effects if we don’t seek medical assistance quickly.
How many times have you strained your knee, for example, after slipping on a wet floor? How many times have you experienced pains in your foot after a near-fall? It’s common, and for businesses, $2.2B in compensation claims have been paid out.
These injuries can be prevented through health and safety measures taken in the workplace. As suggested earlier, this can mean providing signage in a risky area, as well as employee diligence when tidying up after themselves. Risk-assessments should also be commonplace, and action is taken where risks of a fall are possible.
#8: Being compressed by objects or equipment
This injury often occurs in industries where heavy equipment and machinery is being used. Where no precautions have been taken, workers can find themselves trapped if pieces of their clothing become caught up in machinery, as well as their fingers and hair when working near dangerous equipment. Workers can also become compressed after falling while carrying something heavy.
While not as high up on the list as some of the injuries discussed here, the injuries sustained could be considered worse, especially where limbs are in danger of being damaged within machinery. According to the study, we linked you to, $1.9B in compensation claims have been made by workers injured in this way.
These injuries can be avoided if workers have the right training to manage heavy objects and pieces of machinery. They can also be avoided if the employer ensures pieces of equipment are well-maintained. Common sense is also needed from you, the employee, so ensure you wear the correct protective equipment and be mindful of the way you operate potentially hazardous pieces of machinery.
#9: Repetitive motion
Office jobs are supposed to be safe, right? Not so, as there is the risk of repetitive strain injuries when involved in tasks such as typing and writing. Workers on assembly lines are also at risk of similar when carrying out the same task over and over again. Muscles and tendons can be strained, and if not dealt with, sustained injuries can take place. Employers can attest to this, as $1.6 has been paid out in compensation claims.
These injuries are sometimes hard to manage, although employers should ensure their workers have plenty of breaks for rest purposes. As an employee, you should take responsibility for yourself, too. When you start to feel sore because of the tasks you are engaged in, stop! Take a break. Go for a walk to flex your body. And rest if you need to.
#10: Being struck against objects or equipment
It could be as a result of workplace violence, where another has attacked another employee. Or it could be because of a ‘walking into injury’ where the employee has walked or ran into a glass door, table, or some other heavy object within their workplace.
All kinds of injuries can stem from this, including those related to the head, knees, and feet. Where employers have been held liable, $1.2B has been paid out in compensation claims.
These injuries can be avoided by good old-fashioned common sense; i.e., watch where you are walking. However, your employer can be held liable if injuries are sustained through bullies in the workplace, or because the workplace is littered with walking hazards. As the employee, you should report instances of bullying, and remind your employer of health and safety rules within your workplace.
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