Workplace safety is a serious issue for everyone. Whether you have a desk job in a downtown Tampa office, run a cash register for a store, or maintain crucial utility infrastructure, every workplace has some risk of injury—some more severe than others.
According to data from the National Safety Council (NSC), “every 7 seconds… a worker is injured on the job.” Part of avoiding these injuries is knowing what the biggest risks are. With this in mind, here’s the list of the top causes of accidents in the workplace:
Falling is a leading cause of workplace accidents and injuries across all work types. Across all industries, falls ranks at #3 in “workplace injury events resulting in lost work days (25% of injuries)” according to NSC data.
For the construction industry in particular, falls are a severe problem. OSHA notes falls as the leading cause of death in the construction industry, causing “356 out of 899 total deaths in construction in CY 2014 (39.9%).”
On a side note, fall protection in construction topped OSHA’s list of the 10 most frequently violated OSHA standards in fiscal year 2015.
Preventing Falls in the Workplace:
While you can’t prevent 100% of all falls, you can minimize your risks by:
- Keeping work areas free of ground clutter;
- Not overloading yourself with bulky loads that obstruct your vision;
- Using appropriate safety equipment in specific work areas (safety harness, lines, safety nets, etc.); and
- Making sure railings and other barricades are set up and maintained near any steep drops, stairs, or ramps.
If you notice an unsafe fall hazard at your workplace, notify others and your employer right away. You can check out the OSHA fall protection page for more guidance.
In the NSC’s infographic, overexertion tops the list of workplace injuries by causing 35% of injuries. It’s important to note that the NSC lists two major types of “overexertion” injury—lifting/lowering injury (pulled muscles, etc.) and repetitive motion injury.
According to data from insurancejournal.com, overexertion is the leading contributor to the costs of workplace injuries—accounting for $15.1 billion in direct costs of workplace injuries in 2012.
Avoiding Overexertion in the Workplace:
There are a few ways to avoid overexertion injuries in the workplace, including:
- Using proper lifting techniques such as bending at your knees rather than your back, and avoiding twisting your upper body when you lift heavy objects.
- Getting assistance with particularly heavy (50+ lbs.) or bulky objects—either mechanical (forklift, trolley, etc.) or a second person.
- Taking frequent breaks from heavy lifting or from tasks that involve repetitive motions.
- Not working overly-long shifts or frequently changing which shifts you work (such as moving from 1st shift to 3rd shift and back repeatedly).
It’s all too easy to overexert yourself at work without even realizing that you’re doing it—until the pain starts hours or even days later. Work with your employer to identify these overexertion hazards and find ways to work around or eliminate them.
3: Colliding with Objects/Equipment in the Workplace
Many businesses have large objects and equipment in the work area that could cause serious injury or death if it fell on a worker. This injury type is more common among construction workers than other industries, however.
According to data from OSHA, being “struck by object” and “caught-in/between” objects rank in the construction industry’s “Fatal Four,” accounting for 8.1% and 4.3% of fatalities, respectively.
Even in other industries, collisions with heavy objects or being trapped between two objects is a major cause of injury. According to NSC data, contact with objects and equipment account for “25% of injuries” in the workplace across all industries.
Avoiding Collisions with Heavy Objects at Work:
Avoiding this particular injury risk at work can be difficult, as the situations where such injuries may occur vary from one work environment to the next. Some basic precautions you can take to reduce risk include:
- Avoiding Areas Where Heavy Equipment is in Use When Possible. Steer clear of heavy equipment such as forklifts, cranes, dozers, tractors, moving vehicles, etc. whenever you can. Give such equipment a wide berth whenever possible, and make sure the equipment operator is aware of your presence at all times.
- Wearing Safety Gear. When working near heavy machinery, be sure to wear all appropriate safety gear, such as a hardhat, goggles, and bright reflective vest. Hardhats, goggles, and boots can help reduce injury severity if something happens, while bright reflective vests increase your visibility to equipment operators.
- Making Sure Large Objects Are Secure. Even outside the construction industry, large or heavy objects are a pretty common hazard. For example, shelving units used in retail can be knocked over and fall onto a worker if they’re unsecured or unbalanced. Inspect large fixtures for stability issues, such as not resting on the ground evenly, being on an incline, or improper loading (heavier items should be lower to the ground in most cases).
If you notice a major collision hazard in the workplace, notify your employer right away, and try to work out a solution to the problem.
What to Do if an Injury Occurs
If you or a loved one is injured on the job, the first thing to do is to seek medical assistance as soon as possible. Stabilizing the injury and recovery should be your top priorities. To avoid complications, you’ll probably want to use a medical care provider authorized by your employer or the insurance company.
After medical aid has been secured, notify your supervisor at work as soon as you are able to—preferably in writing. This is the first step in ensuring that you can receive workers’ compensation benefits from your employer.
Keeping a verifiable record of when you notified your employer of your injury can be important. This is because employers must notify their insurer within seven days of their learning of the incident. If your employer fails to do so, you may contact the insurer directly.
You’ll want to make sure that you get treatment from a medical service provider authorized by your company’s insurer—all authorized medical bills should be covered by your employer’s insurer. Authorized doctors should also submit the appropriate medical reports to the insurer, but you may want to ask for copies of your reports just in case.
If your workers’ comp claim is denied by your employer or the insurer, be sure to ask them why the claim was denied. If you think that you’ve been unfairly denied compensation for your injury, it may be worthwhile to consult an injury attorney to help you with your workers’ compensation case.