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.

 

Is Mold in the Workplace Dangerous

A group of employees for a car dealership in San Diego has taken the fight over mold in the workplace to a new level. In August, 2010 the five employees who had all previously submitted workers' compensation claims for mold related illnesses, filed criminal fraud charges against the dealership, the owners of the dealership and the insurance carrier due to the denial of their work comp claims. The group has accused the employer, the workers' compensation insurer, the insurer's legal counsel and the medical providers in engaging in a criminal scheme to deny them workers' compensation benefits.
 
In the 1990's enterprising lawyers and willing complainants starting bringing mold related lawsuits against property insurers for people who alleged injury due to exposure to mold. By 2003, almost all property insurers had mold exclusions in their policy that excluded coverage for mold. Mold, as a source of income for attorney, declined sharply. Now, mold is making a comeback of sorts, as lawyers look to make work comp claims based on exposure to mold. (WCxKit)
 
The employees and their attorneys who pursue a workers' compensation claim for mold have two hurdles to overcome. First, there extensive debate in the medical community as to the type and extent of injuries caused by mold. For every doctor who is willing to testify that mold is the cause of a person's medical problems, there is another doctor who is willing to testify that mold is not the cause of the medical problems. Second, proving the illness was caused by exposure to mold in the workplace, as opposed to exposure to mold in the home or elsewhere creates an obstacle for the attorneys of the employees. They have to deal with proving a cause and effect relationship between the job and the employee.
 
Mold is not one specific organism. Mold is a fungus with approximately 1,000 different species of mold in the United States. Mold can grow just about anywhere as long as there is moisture, oxygen and an organic source for food. While most people think of mold growing on the wood framing of a house or building, it can grow on paper, carpet, drywall, insulation, ceiling tile and even on dust and dirt. Mold produces very tiny spores that float through the air until they land on a new surface. If the new surface is stays wet for 48 hours, the mold will begin to grow.
 
While the scientific debate continues on the extent of injury mold can cause to a person. There are some definite known facts about human exposure to mold.  The most common medical issue is an allergic reaction to the mold with hay-fever type symptoms including a runny nose and reddens eyes. The onset of the allergic reaction to mold can be immediate, but a delayed response happens as well. Asthma attacks happen to some individuals who are allergic to mold. This also causes irritation to the nose and eyes, plus irritates the throat and skin in some people. 
 
The most serious medical conditions caused by mold is in people with an impaired immunity system, uncontrolled diabetes, AIDS or who are taking immune suppression drugs for a medical condition.   In these people the mold can skin infections and mucosal infections, but mold does not normally cause systemic infections in humans. 
 
Therefore, unless the employee has a prior medical condition that makes them a high risk when exposed to mold, most employee illness claims related to mold exposure should be minor. That does not prevent an enterprising attorney taking an employee with the sniffles and sending them to their handpicked “world renown” mold doctor who declares the employee to be permanently totally disabled.
 
The best way to protect you as an employer from a workers' compensation claim for mold is to prevent the mold in the first place. Mold needs moisture or high humidity to grow. Be depriving mold of moisture you can prevent its growth. Steps you can take to stop mold in the workplace include:
1.      Repair all roof leaks promptly
2.      Repair all plumbing leaks promptly
3.      Maintain indoor relative humidity between 25% and 60%
4.      Keep air conditioner drip pans clean and flowing freely
5.      Prevent indoor condensation by increase surface temperatures or by reducing the amount of moisture in the air with the use of a dehumidifier
6.      Properly vent bathroom and kitchen areas
7.      Vent dryers and other moisture generating equipment to the outside
8.      Provide proper drainage around the building
 
If you do discover mold in the workplace, eliminate the source of the moisture. After the source of moisture or water is eliminated, remove the moldy building materials from the premise. Note: the more you disturb the mold, the more mold spores you will release into the air. After the repairs are complete, you will want to thoroughly clean and vacuum the area to remove the remaining mold spores. Do not run your HVAC system during the repair process, as the HVAC system could spread the mold spores throughout your building. If you have a serious mold problem, consult the EPA's publication “Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings”. (WCxKit)
 
Protecting your employees from exposure of mold in the workplace is the right thing to do. Even if your workers' compensation insurer denies a mold illness based work comp claim, your group medical insurer will pick up the cost, plus you still lose the employee's productivity while the employee is out of work due to the mold related illness. 

 

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.
Contact: 
RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com or 860-553-6604.

 
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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.

©2010 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact
Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

Kansas Study Details Lifting Injuries Account for High Number of Days Out of Work

Kansas Workers Advised to Think Twice Before Lifting at Work You've likely heard  the advice many times – lift with your legs and not with your back. According to a 2008 Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, Kansas workers would do well to pay attention. The report, produced by the Kansas Department of Labor (KDOL) in cooperation with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, includes data about days away from work showing the most commonly injured part of the body is the back. Data in the report   is based on a survey of 3,500 randomly selected Kansas private employers and includes details on annual counts and incident rates for nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in the private sector for the work year 2007. "This information  is very useful because it can inform our efforts to assist employers in building effective workplace safety programs," said KDOL Secretary Jim Garner. "Through our free safety consultation services, we can work with Kansas employers to ensure these numbers begin to decline."  Other findings from the 2007 survey include: 1. An estimated 48,200 nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses occurred among private industry workers in 2007, or just over 132 per day. 2. Approximately 10,370 of the 2007 workplace injuries and illnesses required days away from work, with an average of seven days off the job. 3. Strains and sprains were the number one cause of injuries, representing more than one-third of the injuries involving days away from work. These types of injuries led every major industry sector. 4. Men accounted for 65 percent of all cases requiring days away from work. 5. Workers 35 to 44 years of age accounted for 27.3 percent of injured or ill workers. The 45- to 54-year-old age group accounted for 22.5 percent of injuries and illnesses. 6. Injuries resulting in fractures accounted for the longest absences from work, with an average of 29 lost work days. This data from a random sampling of private employers differs from the data collected and released by the Division of Workers' Compensation.  Each year, KDOL's Division of Workers' Compensation releases the numbers of all reported workplace injuries and illnesses reported from both public and private employers. For more information  regarding this survey, visit www.bls.gov/iif Click on these links to try it for yourself. WC Calculator: www.ReduceYourWorkersComp.com/calculator.php TD Calculator: www.ReduceYourWorkersComp.com/transitional-duty-cost-calculator.php WC 101: www.ReduceYourWorkersComp.com/workers_comp.php Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws are different. Consult with your corporate legal counsel before implementing any cost containment programs. ©2008 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com

Back to Basics Why the First Report of Injury Is So Important in a Workers Comp Claim

The U.S. Labor  Department reported on Thursday continuing unemployment claims surged 172,000 to a record 6.02 million. Initial jobless claims were recorded at 610,000 for the week ending April 11. The four-week moving average was 659,500.

 

Employers continue  to search for ways to cut costs and have targeted employee benefit plans putting many medical plans in jeopardy.

 

For the employed,  the prospect of losing one's job almost seems imminent which may lead to an increase number of fraudulent workers' compensation claims.

 

Employers must  emphasize a "back-to-basics" approach to their workers' compensation claims.  One area to focus on is understanding the difference between an illness and an injury.  An injury is defined as damage or harm caused to the structure or function of the body caused by an outside agent or force.  An illness is defined as a state of poor health.

 

Employers should review the process used by their claim administrator to register first notice of loss.  Does the administrator make a successful (workersxzcompxzkit) attempt to identify the injury as occupationally-related?  If there is doubt, what is the procedure to review the first notice to controvert the claim?

 

Remember, workers' compensation provides wage replacement (subject to state law) where medical plans do not typically afford this coverage unless a disability occurs.

 

With a growing  number of people unemployed and prospects that the jobless number will continue to increase, employers must rely on the diligence of their claim administrators to verify the accuracy of a reported injury.  If the injury is found to be employment-related (as defined by state law or regulation) then the claim should be handled in a judicious manner.  If there is doubt or suspicion, than immediate action is required not to make payment on a claim that is not work related.

 

Michael Ferreira is the President of Safegate Risk Consulting, LLC. He has been in the insurance industry for many years and has expertise in brokerage, underwriting and claims. While in the brokerage industry, he was the client account executive for Walmart. He can be reached at: 917-767-9123.

 

Try the WC Cost Calculator to show the REAL COST of work comp. Look at WC 101 for the basics about workers comp. Workers' Comp Kit® is a web-based online Assessment, Benchmarking and Cost Containment system for employers. It provides all the materials needed to reduce your costs significantly in 85% less time than if you designed a program from scratch.

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws are different. Consult with your corporate legal counsel before implementing any cost containment programs.

©2008 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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