Workplace injuries happen daily, across all job types and industries, affecting millions of workers each year. According to the National Safety Council, an American worker is injured on the job every seven seconds, with millions of hours of lost productivity, wages, and time spent receiving healthcare. This article will cover the most common workplace injuries, the incidents that lead up to them, and how to avoid them.
Slips, trips, and falls
Slips, trips, and falls are among the leading causes of workplace injuries, and they result in the most worker’s compensation claims. These injuries are caused by icy, oily, or wet floor surfaces, trips over holes, clutter, or poor lighting, and falls from ladders, roofs, or skyscraper construction zones.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) outlines several ways to reduce these types of accidents, with the onus largely falling on the employer. For an employer to prevent an employee from being injured, they must:
- Ensure that working conditions are free of known dangers,
- Keep floors clean and dry,
- Provide protective equipment to workers,
- Be clear during job training about any job hazards that may occur on a day-to-day basis.
Overexertion, repetitive motion, and muscle strains
This type of injury can cause long-term pain or disability, and is caused by improper lifting technique, repetitive work with no breaks, lifting heavy objects, jumping from one level to another, protecting yourself from a collapsing structure, factory line microtasks, or typing or moving a mouse without the proper ergonomic support.
To prevent muscle strains, you should warm up properly, do weight training if time allows, use protective gear, take time to rest in between activities, and use proper technique when lifting heavy objects, especially those that weigh over 50 pounds.
Struck by workers, equipment, or falling objects
These types of injuries are caused by poorly guarded machines, falling debris or materials, getting caught in wires or gears, having pressure placed on a person and their injury, tipped over heavy equipment, exposure to heavy vibrations, bumping into objects or equipment, getting pushed into any hard surface, or walking into walls or machinery.
Avoiding these injuries requires a high degree of situational awareness, as well as following established procedures, and not wearing loose clothes.
Crashes or collisions
Vehicles like trucks and forklifts can cause serious injuries, including but not limited to collisions, getting run over, falls, getting stuck under an overturned vehicle, and being struck by objects that fall from a vehicle.
Again, situational awareness helps prevent these injuries, using your eyes and ears, as well as wearing your seatbelts.
Exposure to harmful substances or environments
Working in loud environments or around chemicals can result in damage to your hearing, sight, skin, and respiratory system. Every workplace should have chemical safety sheets posted, and you should wear proper ear protection, goggles, gloves, and other personal protective equipment if your workplace presents any of these hazards.
Fire and explosions
Fires and explosions have the highest casualty rate for workplace injuries, depending on your proximity to the blast site. Proximity is rated as follows:
- Primary blast, where injury is caused by the blast wave
- Secondary blast, where injury is caused by flying objects or debris from the blast wing
- Tertiary blast, where injury is cause by being thrown through the air, or a structure collapse
- Quaternary blast, which is all other injuries like being crushed, burns, radiation, or inhaling toxic substances
To avoid these injuries, make sure that your workplace is following OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standards, which classifies and labels hazardous materials, provides safety data sheets, and outlines training protocols.
Violence and other injuries by persons or animals
Assaults at the workplace, whether between coworkers or workers and customers, can happen. High tension environments can foster these types of incidents. Additionally, injuries from animals can affect people who work in agriculture, forestry, veterinary medicine, or any industry where aggressive animals are present.
To prevent violence between people, it is important for the employer to have a zero-tolerance policy covering all individuals who interact with company personnel. For working with animals, you can reduce the likelihood of injury by following employer set guidelines, wearing thick clothing, and being situationally aware of aggressive behaviors.
Though these seven causes of workplace injury are commonplace, with the knowledge here you can prevent possible calamities for yourself and your coworkers. If you have questions about a workplace injury then you should contact a local injury attorney where you live for a consultation.