Worker on a floor with injured ankle.

Although most people associate workplace injury or illness with jobs like firefighting and construction work, health risks can be found in a variety of workplaces. From desks to laboratories, injury and illness can happen. Safety is naturally an important aspect within the workplace that can be attained through employee and employer cooperation. Unfortunately, illness and injury are often unavoidable even with the best safety strategies in place.

Accidents and negligence can happen even when prevention techniques are implemented. That’s where workers’ compensation comes in. In most cases, workers’ comp covers accidental or careless damage to an employee’s health as long as there is no substance abuse or purposeful intent. It basically acts as insurance; helping the employee and taking the burden off the employer.

The Facts

Workplace accidents have been minimized over time as safety methods have been improved, but they are still a prevalent issue. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported in 2015 by the private industry. Their calculations suggest that 3 workers comp claims are filed for every 100 full-time workers.

On the public front, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported roughly 18.4 million workplace injuries and illnesses claimed in 2015; 5.1 cases to every 100 full-time workers. These include government occupations, like hospital workers, police and firefighters where health risks are more likely. In summary, these lower numbers are promising but can further reduced. In order to minimize workplace injury and illness, occupational safety professionals try to understand what the most prominent are and the reasons they occur.

Most Frequent Causes of Injury

The Bureau isn’t the only source for reliable data about workplace safety. One of the nation’s largest workers’ comp carriers, The Travelers Companies, Inc., has provided claim information from 2010 to 2014. In their Injury Impact Report, they identify and analyze workplace injury and illness claims as well as the top causes associated with them.

Before looking at the most common injuries it’s important to understand what causes them. Handling objects, substances, or materials otherwise capable of injury comprises 32% of The Travelers Companies, Inc. total claims. That’s followed by slips, trips and falls which account for 16% of their claims. The third cause of injury is colliding with an object, either by the worker’s force or its own. These make up 10% of claims. Accidents involving tools account for 7% of their claims. Trauma due to overuse comprises 4% of their total claims.

The causes of injury are important to know so that occupational safety professionals can create new strategies and protective methods to combat the injury itself. Without knowing the cause, injuries could be more challenging to minimize.

The Top 5 Injuries

As seen above, there are a multitude of ways to become injured at the workplace. Whether it is negligence or accidental, injuries have to be taken seriously. Workers compensation will vary depending on the severity of the injury. Per The Travelers Companies, Inc., injuries such as broken bones, electric shock or those requiring amputation require the most compensation. Fortunately, they make up the least occurrences.

The Travelers Companies, Inc. Injury Impact Report provides the top injuries sustained in the workplace.

1. Strains and sprains comprise 30% of total claims and are the most frequently claimed

2. Cuts or punctures are 19% of total claims

3. Contusions, or bruises, make up 12% of claims

4. Inflammation follows with 5% of total claims

5. Fractures are 5% of claims from 2010-2014

These injuries can occur due to a variety of accidents. While the injury dictates the compensation, it’s both the injury and cause that help occupational safety professionals minimize further health risks.

How to Minimize Workers’ Compensation Claims

Even though workers’ comp is a helpful and necessary insurance, employers and employees should work to minimize the need for it. Fortunately, there are some helpful safety and prevention strategies that can help.

Wearing personal protective equipment is an important safety tip for those working in hazardous areas or with hazardous materials. This can be enhanced by frequently rotating workers so they spend less time in hazardous situations. The longer an employee is in a dangerous environment, the higher the risk of injury.

Erecting a buffer between hazards and employees can also minimize health risks. If at all possible, removing the hazard altogether is the optimum way to ensure safety. If the hazard is an element such as gas or liquid, providing proper ventilation and disposal methods can see a reduction in injury or illness.

Most importantly, the best prevention strategy is to train employees and employers frequently. Creating a learning environment focused on safety promotes a healthy and safe workplace. If need be, a safety committee or group made up of employees, employers and occupational safety specialists can analyze potential risks and find a solution before there‘s a problem.

Preventing Injury as a Career

The most ideal strategy is preventing an injury before workers’ compensation is needed. Occupational Safety professionals like ergonomists and hygienists work diligently to improve the workplace so that workers minimize their chance of an accident. They implement new strategies to combat existing and new threats that appear daily. Without them, workers’ comp may become overloaded and be less accessible in the future than it is today.

Learn More

Learn to identify and analyze potential workplace hazards, infractions and risks through a bachelor of science in occupational safety online. At Eastern Kentucky University, you will gain a graduate-level education by industry-experienced educators and fire and safety professionals who are committed to teaching and preparing you for continued success.

Recommended Readings:

Sleep Deficiency and Fatigue Causing More Workplace Injuries

Workers Compensation and the Most Dangerous Industries in the U.S.

4 Occupational Diseases and Prevention Tips

Sources:

http://www.mhi.org/downloads/industrygroups/ease/travelers-workers-compensation.pdf

http://safety.blr.com/workplace-safety-news/safety-administration/injury-and-illness-records-osha300/Whats-the-top-cause-of-employee-injury-The-answer-/

http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2016/05/18/409006.htm

http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/hpcd/cdee/occhealth/documents/lesson3.pdf

https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/osh.pdf