You know those signs you see sometimes in warehouses or manufacturing plants that read, “It has been ___ days since our last workplace accident”? If every office, factory, and worksite in the country had this sign posted, it would need to be updated almost continually.
In fact, an on-the-job injury occurs every seven seconds in the United States today!
Work injuries can occur as a result of hazardous conditions, employee error, employer negligence, or just sheer happenstance. Unfortunately, many of them are preventable. Let’s take a look at the most common types of injuries and accidents that befall American workers, and what can be done to prevent them.
The Most Dangerous Occupations
Fishing workers and logging workers topped the list for the highest number of fatal on-the-job injuries in 2017. Also in the top five were roofing contractors, pilots, and flight engineers, and refuse collectors.
As you might expect, manual laborers have a much higher incidence of fatalities on the job. Those who face a higher incidence of fatalities on the job include:
- Agricultural workers
- Electrical workers
- Those in the construction industry
- Landscapers and grounds workers
Additionally at risk are police officers and firefighters, who bravely put themselves in the line of duty every day they don their uniform. That’s no surprise.
But would it shock you to learn that taxi drivers and chauffeurs have a homicide rate over 20 times that of the average worker? They are also more likely to be in a serious motor vehicle accident. The people who make their living by driving a taxi or even a limo are among the most vulnerable American workers. With the rising popularity of Uber and Lyft, this number stands to increase even further.
Anyone Can Suffer Work Injuries
Think that you are in the clear because you put on a necktie every day? Think again.
White-collar workers are much less likely to be killed due to dangerous conditions in their workplace. However, they are not immune to accidents and injuries.
Those who work a desk job are subject to repetitive strain injuries. Some examples of these include:
- Wrist, hand, or arm pain, or carpal tunnel syndrome due to keyboarding and using a computer mouse for long stretches of time every day
- Back pain from being seated, often in a chair that is not ergonomic, for hours at a time
- Vision problems, like eye strain, thanks to near-constant peering at computer screens
- Chronic headaches, which can be referred pain from the back, neck, or arms, or due to bright fluorescent lights, environmental toxins, and so on
Back injuries can also occur to office workers who are reaching or stretching for items on a high shelf. Back injuries also occur to people who carry a heavy object such as a box of computer paper or a water cooler refill.
Slips, Trips, and Falls
Slips, trips, and falls are hazards of just about every job out there because they can happen virtually anywhere. From a spill of cooking oil in a commercial kitchen or a freshly mopped floor in a five-star hotel to an out-of-place toy truck in a daycare center or a tree limb left lying in the middle of a golf course, slip and/or fall hazards are ubiquitous.
A worryingly high number of people are injured or even killed when they are struck by a falling object or debris, too. In fact, falls are the third most common cause of unintentional injury-related death among American workers.
We’ve all heard stories of so-called freak accidents in which a passerby was knocked unconscious by a brick or 2×4 while walking past a construction area, or a department store shelving unit that topples over, taking an innocent bystander with it. However, the vast majority of these injuries are preventable.
How Can On-the-Job Injuries Be Avoided?
If you are a business owner or someone in a supervisory position, you may be wondering what you can do in terms of accident and injury prevention. It’s important to take a proactive approach, anticipating potential accidents and taking steps to reduce their likelihood.
First and foremost, make sure that all safety practices and procedures are understood by every employee — and enforced by management. The workplace premises should be frequently evaluated for safety hazards, and any instance of non-compliance with safety guidelines rectified immediately.
Provide safety gear such as high visibility clothing, steel-toed boots, hardhats, safety eyewear, non-skid footwear, and the like to your employees, free of charge. Reward those who gear up reliably, and institute disciplinary measures for those who are lax about safety.
Lastly, give your employees enough time to properly implement safety procedures. Workers who are rushing to meet a quota or under pressure to increase productivity are more likely to forego protocols, take shortcuts, or leave the cleanup to someone else — thereby creating an unsafe workplace.
Steps to Take in the Wake of an Accident
In the unfortunate event that an accident does occur, several steps are vital to achieving the best possible outcome. All workplace accidents should be reported to management immediately, and documented with a thorough accident report. If necessary, stop work to correct any problems that caused the mishap.
Workers who are injured should seek medical attention. Do so even if the injury doesn’t appear to be that serious. If an employee seeks worker’s compensation later, having that documentation will be crucial.
Once the injured parties have been treated and the accident site cleaned, use this situation as a learning experience. Make changes to any policies that might have contributed to unsafe conditions. Clearly communicate safety-related messages to all employees.
Work Injuries Are Everyone’s Responsibility
Every workplace in the U.S. owes it to their employees to maintain a safe atmosphere. On the flip-side, workers owe it to their company, and to themselves, to follow safety regulations and best practices. When everyone does their part to create and promote an environment where safety truly does come first, work injuries can be prevented.
If you are a worker who has been denied worker’s compensation after an accident on the job, Hollington Brown LLP can help. Contact us to schedule a complimentary consultation.