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Injuries in the workplace are a frequent occurrence and can catch even the most diligent employee by surprise. Here’s some of the most common workplace injuries and best practices to avoid them.
Every seven seconds in the United States a worker sustains some sort of injury on the job. Of the 4.6 million injuries documented each year, sprains, strains, cuts and lacerations are the most common. However, not everyone walks away from a workplace injury. The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded over 5,100 fatal occupational casualties which resulted in death in 2021, which was up over 8% in 2020. Further, nearly 200,000 injuries recorded in 2020 resulted in extended time away from work.
While the statistics of work-related injuries are staggering, the reasons they occur are quite simplistic. Here’s some of the leading causes of workplace injuries happening today:
In the break-neck speed of labor demand, it’s no surprise that many blue and white collar laborers report feeling overexerted at work, so much so that concentration and safety accidentally fall by the wayside. This can also give way to an negative bodily reaction, such as a sudden jerking when lifting something heavy, resulting in injury.
Unsafe Work Environment
Many work environments lack various dynamics of safety measures. These can be both complex overlooks, such as mishandling of heavy duty equipment, or more simple mishaps like improper storage/care of a ladder. Both can result in serious injury and even death. Training and procedure for these operations are usually documented, but rarely referenced.
Distractions While Engaged
Especially with the emergence of portable electronic devices, it’s no surprise that some of the most common workplace injuries result from cell phone use on the job. While this may not be applicable to white collard workers, blue collar workers are especially at risk. A report from The Tampere Institute of Technology shows that nearly 3% of fatal workplace injuries stem from inappropriate cell phone use, and 13% of “close calls” result from the same.
Contact with Moving Objects
Being hit by moving objects is one of the most common workplace injuries happening in various industries. Usually this is caused by a lack of visibility by both the operator and the struck worker, or a fixed object has fallen unexpectedly. Such accidents point to the importance of PPE on the job site, such as hard hats.
Whether a workers falls from a moving vehicle, gets struck by a moving vehicle, or is trapped under the vehicle, this category of injury occurs more often than one would think. Anywhere vehicles are present on a job site, especially if the work environment is constrictive or close quarters, a risk of vehilce-related injury is apparent.
Repetitive Motion Injuries
Repetitive motion is the act of physically performing a movement over and over again. Within this realm, there are two areas of apparent risk. The first is developing a strain or physical injury due to over physical exertion over time, and the second is complacency due to the repetitive nature of the movement being performed.
Trips, Slips & Falls
It goes without saying that trips, slips and falls of any kind in the workplace (even within an office environment) are a high area of common workplace injury. Much of this results from a lack of safety signage in the area, even something as simple as a “wet floor” sign.
These injuries are commonplace because they have the ability to develop and worsen overtime. Thought of as a “silent killer” of sorts, something as low-exertive as sitting in the wrong position over extended periods of time can have long term negative affects on the body.
The most common workplace injuries occur because the worker is not properly rested the night before, especially if the following shift is over eight hours. Lack of sleep causes decision impairment, lethargy, and low-sustaining energy. For the safety of yourself and those around you, be sure to gain an adequate amount of sleep before going on the job!
Take Breaks During the Day
Taking short breaks during the day when you are temporarily unengaged with the project at hand has multiple benefits. The reduction of RMI (repetitive motion injuries) as described above is one immediate benefit from breaking from the job. Another benefit that often goes overlooked is the mental rejuvenation one can gain from taking a break, and re-engaging after 5-10 minutes.
Ask for Help
Many workers today are afraid to ask for help on the job site for various reasons. Some of which may be fear of incompetency, missing a deadline, or even pride/ego. Asking for help when needed not only ensures the job will be done correctly, but can provide areas of training and guidance for a similar task in the future.
Conduct a Proper Risk Assessment
This is especially significant in the blue-collar environment, and rests on the shoulders of both the individual and project manager. Conducting a proper risk assessment before engaging in a job helps maintain crew competency, alertness when engaging with machinery, and can even serve to boost team morale.