Top 6 Causes of Workers Comp Injuries and How to Avoid Them

 

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:

 

 

  1. Lifting

 

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]

 

 

  1. 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.

 

 

  1. 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.

 

 

  1. Lacerations

 

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.

 

 

  1. 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.

 

 

  1. 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.

 

 

Summary

 

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 mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com

 


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Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.

 

©2012 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact us at: Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

 

Five Questionable Workers Compensation Injuries

You are at work. An accident happens. So, you qualify for workers compensation coverage, right? Compensating workplace injuries is why the employer pays for coverage – right? Not so fast, it's not that easy.
 
 
Sometimes, the answer is “sometimes.” There is a big difference between an injury happening at work, and the injury being “work-related.” The golden rule is: the injury has to “occur within the course and scope of employment”  and "arose out of the circumstances of employment." Of course, each jurisdiction states the law slightly differently, so check state law. For more information: Is the injury compensable.
 
 
Here are five common examples of questionable compensable “workplace” injuries.
 
Note: Coverage can vary by jurisdiction. Always check with your adjuster for any scenarios applicable to your particular workers compensation cases.
 
 
Example #1: I hurt my back lifting a box.
Back injuries may be the most common of workers compensation claims. An employee, doing normal work duties, feels back pain. Is it covered? Ask these questions:
 
1.      Was the worker doing normal job duties?
2.      Was the injury witnessed?
3.      Is this an isolated incident?
4.      Did the pain start off slowly, then worsen over time or was it more acute in nature?
5.      Was it reported promptly and to the proper person?
6.      Does the worker have prior back injury claims or prior surgery to the affected area?
 
The employer may be on the hook for accepting this claim as a strain. However, if later the worker needs surgical intervention to repair ongoing pain, then the claim may be disputed. Reporting the claim late and/or not receiving treatment right away can affect the compensability of the claim. The importance of prompt injury reporting and proper medical treatment can mean the difference between a “back injury” claim being accepted or denied.
 
 
Example #2: My shoulder hurts from doing my normal repetitive job duties.
Repetitive job injuries are quite common. The same employee comes to work day after day, doing the same job on the same machine for months, maybe years. But whether the job actually caused the injury is the main question. Some states are much more restrictive allowing repetitive injuries than others — so check state law!
 
 
If the worker reports a repetitive job injury, and an MRI later shows all kinds of arthritis in the shoulder, then this claim may not be accepted. Unless the worker can prove the job duties led to an aggravation of the pre-existing degenerative conditions, the claim may not be covered. The employer may be on the hook for a temporary strain or exacerbation, but once a surgical repair is recommended, this claim could be denied by an IME physician.
 
 
Everyone has a different degree of ongoing arthritic issues in their bodies. There are 25-year-old workers with shoulders looking like they have been through the mill. And there are 65-year-old workers with perfectly healthy shoulders. It all depends on genetics, the job being done, and for how long. The physician must be able to differentiate between what is a pre-existing degenerative arthritic condition, and what damage is specifically related to the job tasks.
 
 
Example #3: I slipped on water on the floor and twisted my knee, but I don’t need medical treatment.
Watch out for these claims. Some workers do not run to the doctor for every little ache and pain. Some are afraid to miss work for financial reasons. Some are afraid to report a claim because they are afraid of being laid off or moved to another job classification.
 
 
The most important thing for the employer to do in these cases is to document the incident internally. Workers must know it is “okay” to report an incident, but if they don’t go to the clinic for treatment they run the risk of their claim being disputed down the road.
 
 
The workers comp motto for claims adjusters is:  “Workers injured at work go for medical treatment because they are injured.” The reality is some people do not want to get treatment at the time of the injury. They may have heard the workers comp clinic has bad service; or they have to wait for 3 hours before being seen. These issues are detrimental to the claims adjuster, since a worker may have a legitimate injury but due to these outside factors does not get treatment at once. Failure of the worker to get medical care does not mean the worker is not hurt. It means delays in medical treatment complicate the claim down the road potentially leading to a denial.
 
 
Example #4: I was injured in a car accident while driving a work vehicle.
Auto accidents in employer vehicles can be tricky. Every state has its own rules when it comes to these types of accidents. Just because a worker is driving a company vehicle does not mean the claim is automatically accepted. A thorough investigation is required. Questions to ask include:
 
1.      What was the worker doing at the time of the accident? Think distracted driving.
2.      Where was the worker heading when the accident occurred?
3.      What were the worker’s exact job tasks while in the company vehicle?
4.      Who was at fault at the time of the injury?
5.      Was there a police report?
6.      Did the worker get medical treatment at a hospital?
7.      Was a drug/alcohol test done at the hospital?
 
 
The answers to these and others questions determine if the claim is accepted or not. Sure, if you are on the way to a job site and an accident occurs, you may be entitled to some benefits but there is no guarantee.
 
 
Example #5: I was horsing around with another employee when I fell and injured my hand.
Believe it or not, some states actually cover a degree of “horseplay.” The hard part for the adjuster is determining the degree of horsing around that will lead to the claim being accepted or rejected. Typically, it is common practice for the adjuster to deny this type of claim, but not always. Statutes involving horseplay are usually vague, and open to interpretation. The employer needs to do a detailed investigation involving all parties, and the adjuster should take statements as well to see if they match up. After the investigation, consult an attorney to see if the horseplay act causing the injury would be covered.
 
 
Summary
Just because you suffer an injury at work does not mean you have automatic coverage under the Workers Compensation Act. Every scenario is unique, and most injury details are not the same. The employer plays a very important role in the initial investigation of all claims, and the more details provided to the adjuster, the better decision the adjuster can make as to claim compensability – or not.
 
Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risks Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and website 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. See www.LowerWC.com for more information. Contact:RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.
©2011 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

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