Injuries on the job can occur at any time. Some employers have a higher risk of injury depending on the type of job they do day in and day out. Some workers have higher exposure to injury based both on their type of job tasks and their non-occupational conditions they bring into the workplace. This could be fatigue, other injuries, years of work experience, etc. Despite whatever baggage some workers carry to into employment, we see the same types of injuries that occur. These injuries fall into certain classes, which we discuss below:
Perhaps the most common cause of injury is lifting. When workers are exposed to lifting tasks often, their bodies can start having some wear and tear, and the progression of this injury can morph into symptoms of muscle strains, spinal injuries, and the like.
A lot of the time workers will disregard the warning signs predisposing them to a muscle strain that needs medical attention. Everyone has aches and pains, some worse than others. But for the most part workers will continue to carry on through the pain, until they perform a lifting task that finally prompts the needs for treatment. In a perfect world, these workers will stop what they are doing at the first sign of injury and report it to their supervisor to get medical attention. But this is rarely the case. I have performed tons of investigations into these types of injuries, and when I talk to workers they usually tell me that they noticed the start of the particular pain days or weeks ago, it continued to nag them, until they were working and their back or shoulder finally gave out on them.
If you have a lot of lifting on your job floor, there are many ways to try and limit injury including rotating staff, taking frequent breaks, lifting in smaller increments, using back braces, on so on. Just be aware of the fact that if your labor force does a lot of lifting, and this can take its’ toll on your workers. So listen to them when they say they have a problem and report a claim if they feel it is serious enough to warrant medical treatment. [WCx]
2. Slip/fall injuries
About as popular as lifting injuries can be slips and falls. These injuries can be minor in nature, or as severe as a bone fracture. Especially hazardous will be slip/falls on stairs, or construction sites, leading to falls and the potential for more serious injuries.
Factors out of your control such as rain, snow, ice, and so on can lead to an increase in these types of injuries. Carriers see increased reports of slip/fall injuries in the Fall and Spring, due to the increase of icy conditions. Equally dangerous is snow, especially when it is carried into your building’s doorways which then melts and creates a slip/fall by an unsuspecting employee passing by.
As employers it is hard to be proactive against these types of injuries all of the time. But if you pay special attention when the weather conditions warrant, you may be able to save some of these injuries from occurring. Replacing your doorway carpets is a main way to stop the spread of snow and water into your building. Placing non-skid mats and borders on steps can also help.
So if you have a lot of in and out foot or machine traffic, especially when the weather seasons warrant, keep a careful eye out for these hazards. You may save a serious injury from occurring.
3. Machine injuries
It is obvious to say that manufacturing jobsites will have a lot of moving machinery. And with this increased presence of machinery you will see people being injured by these machines. Whether it is contusions or amputations, injuries will occur. A lot of the time these injuries can be prevented from happening. There are countless claims where the machines are modified, guards are removed, people placing their hands in the machines to remove clogs or stuck parts, and so on. This is especially true in workplaces where there a lot of parts and fast moving machines on an assembly-type line; workers are trying to do what they can to keep pace with their job demands.
Employers have to be very aware of the fact that machinery should never be modified in a way that removes the safety mechanisms from doing the jobs they were designed to do, which is preventing injury. Even worse is after the injury occurs, the carrier may try to subrogate against the machine manufacturer. But once the carrier discovers that the machine was modified or guards were removed, this deflates the effectiveness of their claim against the manufacturer. And worse yet, some states will punish the employer for allowing this modification to happen, which created an increased chance of injury. So save yourself the headache, and leave the machines to operate as they were designed to operate.
Laceration injuries can occur due to a variety of reasons. An employee can cut themselves on anything, ranging from a tool or part they are working on to a shelf, a nail, or just about anything else that has a sharp edge to it. These injuries may be hard to avoid, but you can try and lessen the hazard.
Taking input from your employees is always a good place to start. These are the people doing the jobs day in and day out. If they are telling you about sharp edges and sharp parts, listen to them. Equally important is watching the trend of your injury reports and loss runs. If you begin to see a lot of people sustaining a laceration injury while doing a particular task, it is time to investigate, before someone loses a finger or thumb due to injury.
5. Other employees
As dangerous as lifting, slips/falls, machines, and lacerations can be, equally dangerous are the other employees milling around on a typical day. Countless injuries occur from the fault of coworkers. I have seen employees dragged, pinched, ran over, dropped, cut, poked, burned, and the like. Of course the other worker feels bad, but not as bad as the person that was injured!
You have to preach awareness at the workplace. Have walkways taped off away from machines and where people in vehicles may be. Install mirrors around corners so people can see others coming. Beep horns and enforce speed limits around your work floor. The injury you may prevent may be your own.
6. Repetitive injury
Lastly we discuss repetitive injury. Workers that do the same task day after day use the same muscles and make the same movements day after day. Over the course of months and years, injuries can occur, the most common or popular being carpal tunnel.
Technology has come a long way in helping the worker to avoid a repetitive motion injury. Job tools are more ergonomic, employers use rotating job tasks and shift employees so they are not doing the same task all of the time. Machines have become more automated leading to less user interaction, which is helping to prevent injury. [WCx]
But this doesn’t solve the problem that repetitive injury can still occur. A word to the wise is that the earlier these injuries are reported, the better chance the employee has for a full recovery. If you wait too long, the worker may be so injured that they will never make a full recovery. So again, listen to your employees and watch your loss run reports for trends of injuries on certain jobs or while working certain machines. It can prevent injury in the long run.
The 6 mechanisms of injury stated above are not the only ones, but they are the most common. If you as the employer become more involved, and more proactive, you can prevent a lot of these injuries from occurring. Time and time again I recommend to you enlisting the help and input of your employees. They work the jobs, they face the hazards, and they can help you prevent some injuries from happening in the first place.
Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%. Contact: RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.
Editor Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
WORKERS COMP MANAGEMENT MANUAL: www.WCManual.com
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