When the family breadwinner is unable to work for an extended period due to a disability, the consequences can be devastating. Fortunately, most work-related injuries and illnesses are covered by workers’ compensation. Unfortunately, even minor application errors can result in delayed or reduced payments. If you have been injured on the job, an experienced work injury attorney can help you get the benefits you deserve in a timely fashion.
Top causes of workplace injuries
According to the 2017 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, the top causes of non-fatal work injuries are:
- Overexertion. These injuries typically occur when the muscles, ligaments, or tendons are strained or sprained due to excessive force or exertion. Common causes of these injuries include heavy lifting, pushing, or pulling. To reduce your risk of overexertion injuries, do not lift, push, or pull objects that are too heavy for your strength, and wear proper safety gear if you must do so.
- Slip, trip, and fall accidents. Believe it or not, falls are the third leading cause of accidental death. In fact, a total of 34,673 people died in falls at work and home in 2016. In certain industries, such as construction, falls are the number one cause of death. To prevent work-related falls, it is essential for employers to provide adequate training, fall protection, and an overall safe working environment. If you are injured due to your employer’s failure to do this, you may be entitled to compensation for any resulting damages.
- Struck by object. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), a total of 811 Americans died in 2013 after being struck by an object, and more than four million required treatment in a hospital emergency department. Men are injured in these types of accidents more frequently than their female counterparts.
- Motor vehicle accidents. Between 2003 and 2016, more than 25,000 people were killed in work-related motor vehicle deaths in this country.
- Caught in object. When a worker is caught in or crushed by two or more objects the results can be devastating. One of construction’s “fatal four,” caught-in-object accidents often end in serious injury or death. They are commonly caused by unguarded machinery, equipment rollovers, collapsing materials, cave-ins, and being caught between fixed objects. Training and a safe work environment are essential to reducing the risk of these deadly accidents.
- Repetitive motions. Although repetitive motion injuries are most common in office environments and are generally the least life-threatening, they are actually one of the costliest. Commonly involving injury to the upper extremities, such as the wrists and elbows, repetitive motion injuries are often caused by overuse of computer keyboards and mouses. When office tasks are performed without proper ergonomics, painful injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome can occur.
Report unsafe work conditions
Workplace injuries can occur for many reasons, and negligence may or may not be a factor. Most work accidents are a result of human error, inadequate training, faulty or defective equipment, unsafe behavior, lack of proper safety gear, or lack of supervision. If you feel that your work environment is unsafe, talk to a supervisor.
If you report unsafe work conditions, and your employer fails to address your concerns, contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA was created through the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to establish and enforce workplace health and safety standards. OSHA regulates safety standards for construction, agriculture, maritime, and general industry employers.
OSHA investigates claims of unsafe work conditions. When an employer fails to follow OSHA’s established safety guidelines, it will be required to resolve the issues in a timely manner. In some cases, serious violations may require the payment of steep penalties.
You can also file a complaint with OSHA if you face retaliation from your employer for reporting unsafe conditions. According to the law firm Piro Zinna Cifelli Paris & Genitempo, "If you are targeted for retaliation after making your complaint—whether it starts the moment you bring your supervisor's attention to the issue or after OSHA shows up with an inspector, you need to act quickly. You only have 30 days to file a complaint about retaliation with OSHA. As always, it may be wise to explore your legal options if you're the victim of retaliation, especially if you end up abruptly discharged." Fear of workplace retaliation does not justify fear for your life due to unsafe conditions.
Was negligence a factor?
Workers’ compensation covers most work-related injuries, but you may be entitled to additional compensation if negligence played a role in your injuries. An experienced work injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured in a work-related accident.