Common Work Injuries
Employers are required by law to create a safe workplace for workers to minimize the risk of accidents and injuries. This is also to ensure that should an accident occur, the severity of damages will be minimal. These measures include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Training workers in compliance with safety standards;
- Using high-quality, well-maintained equipment and machinery;
- Having procedures to correct any dangerous practices; and
- Maintaining effective emergency response measures to reduce risks of injury to workers.
Common Injuries Sustained on the Job
Workplace injury commonly involves injuries to the eyes, head, hands, and neck. In spite of laws that govern safety in the workplace, accidents and injuries are more common than they should be and are almost always entirely preventable.
Some of the most common workplace injuries include the following. For more information, read below!
Amputations are devastating and can completely change an individual's life in a matter of seconds. Workers who spend time around sharp blades, machines, or presses are at risk of amputation. Factory workers, construction workers, printing press workers, butchers, processing plant employees, and manufacturing plant employees are just some of the workers who are at risk to this type of injury.
Machinery That Presents the Most Danger
Per OSHA, there are a few mechanical components of machines that present obvious risks for amputation. The first is a point of operation. This is the area of the machine that performs work on material in a manufacturing or processing plant. For example, in a sewing machine, the point of operation would be the sewing needle. Another dangerous part of the machine is the power-transmission apparatuses. These are any pulleys, chains, cams, gears, flywheels, belts, couplings, rods, and other machine components that transmit energy to make the machine work.
When a person's finger or limb is pinched in one of these apparatuses, it can have devastating consequences. In addition to these components, other moving parts on any machine can cause the danger of amputation, including parts that rotate, transverse, or reciprocate. OSHA says that all mechanical motion can be dangerous, but any parts of a machine that involve nip points where two parts move together are the most dangerous. Mechanical power presses, non-powered conveyors, drill presses, meat cutting band saws, printing presses, bending machines, power press brakes, milling machines, shears, slitters, roll-forming and roll-bending machines, powered conveyors, food slices, drill presses, and grinders are just a few of the machines that have been known to cause amputations in the past.
Preventing Amputation Injuries
OSHA has provisions in place that are supposed to keep workers from severe injury due to amputation at a factory or industrial location. If workers get proper training, it will help to minimize the risk of amputation. As well, administrative controls can help to protect workers further, and machine safeguarding can improve a worker's safety. Guards provide a physical barrier between the worker and the dangerous machines and should be installed when possible. The guards should be secure and strong, and workers should not be able to bypass, remove, or tamper with them. Guards should not obstruct the operator's view, and they should not hamper an employee's work.
There are also devices that can protect a worker from an amputation. These can interrupt the typical motions of the machine when an operator's hands are near the machine or a device that prevents the workers from reaching into dangerous locations of the machine. The device can be something that causes an operator to withdraw his or her hands if they get near the danger zone. All devices must allow safe lubrication of the machine and cannot interfere with the operations that the machine is created to perform. All devices need to be secure and durable.
OSHA warns all factory owners or business operators that they are responsible for safeguarding all machines at the workplace. Most of the time, manufacturers will recommend devices or safeguards for their machines, which are available at an additional cost. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, children under the age of 18 are not allowed to perform some amputation-risk jobs at farms just as jobs involving band saws, guillotine shears, punching and shearing machines, meatpacking and meat processing machines, and woodworking machines. Also, children under 18 are not permitted to operate meat slicers, metal-forming machines, and paper product machines.
Per OSHA, at least a million American workers suffer back injuries each year. They form a quarter of all workers' compensation payments in the country, besides causing a great deal of suffering and hardship. Back injuries most commonly occur when workers exert an extreme amount of force on the back, such as when lifting heavy objects or performing the repeated motion. Because back injuries are so common, and the causes are so well-known, some regulations require employers to ensure proper safety precautions are in place to help prevent them.
Preventing Back Injuries
Several things can be done to help avoid workplace back injuries:
- Provide workers with safety or protective equipment such as back support
- Limit the amount of bending and lifting that workers are required to do
- Instruct workers to work in teams when lifting heavy objects
- Provide workers with machines for lifting objects over 40 pounds
In addition to taking those precautions, it is also necessary to provide workers with proper training on how to safely lift heavy objects or perform other tasks that could lead to a back injury. This training should be done as soon as employment begins, though it is useful to remind workers about proper safety procedures periodically. While it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure a safe workplace, workers also need to be aware of risks around them and work together to help prevent back injuries or other accidents.
Blunt Force Trauma Injuries
Blunt force trauma occurs from the impact of a heavy object colliding with the body. The trauma is only considered blunt force if the object that causes the trauma stays outside of the body. If the object enters, it is considered a stab or pierce wound. While the actual impact is what is considered blunt force trauma, these injuries can result in other conditions such as concussions, contusions, fractures, and internal injuries. When a worker receives a blunt force injury, it is likely the result of falling off of an elevated position, such as scaffolding or ladders. Blunt force trauma may also be the result of getting hit or struck by a heavy object, such as drivable workplace machinery, falling equipment or materials, etc.
These injuries can result in other conditions, such as:
- Internal Injuries
Types of Blunt Force Trauma
- Head Injury - Many blunt force injuries involve the skull or head. Usually, construction workers and miners are at-risk for head injury due to the various elevated platforms in and around buildings. One hammer falling four or five stories can do serious harm to an individual unfortunate enough to be struck at the bottom. As work in these environments is often fast-paced, safety regulations are at times forfeited for the sake of time. This can lead to hazardous workplace environments where workers are prone to blunt force trauma.
- Eye Injuries - The eye is an extremely delicate organ that is susceptible to numerous workplace hazards. Many workplace eye injuries are a result of trauma to the eye socket or eye bone. A “black eye” is a signifier that an eye has sustained moderate damage from a blunt force impact, but in most cases, black eyes are not a reason to visit a medical professional. However, if the socket is broken or fractured, then a visit to the doctor will result in surgery on the socket as broken bone fragments may need to be removed or realigned.
- Injury to the Abdomen - Abdominal blunt force trauma is similar to the trauma that an individual receives in an automobile accident. Blunt force trauma to the abdomen can cause significant damage to internal organs such as the spleen, liver, stomach, and intestines. These injuries are similar to brain injuries in that the superficial appearance of the injury may not indicate the real amount of damage done to the internal organs. This is why it is critical that those who are hit by a blunt force in the abdomen or head immediately seek hospital care. A patient may feel completely fine, but end up having grievous internal injuries that require prompt medical attention.
- Brain Injuries - A blunt force trauma injury to the head may lead to a brain injury. Although brain injuries are extremely dangerous, not all brain injuries show serious symptoms. At times, the only visible effect of brain trauma may be swelling or discoloration of the affected area, but these symptoms can hint at deadly injuries underneath the surface. When the head is struck by blunt force, the brain can "rock" back and forth inside the skull. In some cases, this “rocking” can be more dangerous than the blunt force trauma itself. When the brain is shaken inside the skull, it can result in the brain tearing sensitive nerve fibers. The damage to these fibers can cause loss of brain function in varying degrees. In mild cases, the patient may have short-term memory issues for some time. In moderate cases, epilepsy may be triggered, causing the injured to have onset seizures from outside stimuli. In severe cases, the patient could require rehabilitative therapy.
Due to the delicate nature of the human brain, any damage or injury can cause life-altering consequences. As humans are naturally vulnerable and without natural protective devices, even the slightest impact can cause serious and even fatal amounts of damage. Damage to the brain can result in permanent damage that could be impossible to reverse. Although there are some instances in which a brain injury can occur from degenerative diseases, some of the most common ways in which brain damage can occur are through sudden and forceful impact. Due to the nature of these types of injuries, should they occur, it is in the best interests of the victim to seek immediate medical attention.
Some of the common symptoms that should raise a red flag:
- Watery fluid draining from ears and nose
- The sudden loss of consciousness
- Difficulty seeing (blurred and fuzzy vision)
- Difficulty breathing with slow or shallow breaths
- Lethargy, exhaustion, and fatigue
- Numbness throughout the victim's body
Should this be noted quickly and medical attention sought, there is a greater chance of the victim receiving the least amount of damage possible. Although there is no way to reverse brain damage, there are certain steps that can be sought to help improve the quality of life. Studies have shown that for up to three decades past the initial accident, a victim will be able to improve their functioning. This is helped significantly by how immediate medical treatment is administered. For example, acute medical treatment such as the monitoring of blood pressure, supplying the necessary amount of oxygen, and even giving the proper dosage of drugs can all provide a victim with a foundation for which further treatment will be able to stand on. Following acute medical care, it will move into acute rehabilitation and post-acute rehabilitation.
As an industrial worker, you are required to pay close attention to your environment. In the event of an accident, maintaining this focus can be difficult. Often, these accidents can lead to devastating results for workers, leaving them permanently scarred, disfigured, or disabled.
Burn injuries are commonly reported in industrial accidents—especially when a large explosion or fire occurs. Due to the dangerous chemicals and hot materials, workers run a high risk of injury. Chemical burns can result in severe pain and suffering, leaving an employee unable to work for an extended period. The combination of hot temperatures and chemical compounds can result in far worse damage than a typical burn injury. While a typical burn injury may require time away, a chemical burn injury could result in permanent disability.
Seeking Compensation for Burn Injuries in the Oil & Gas Industry
The oil and gas industry is one of the most dangerous industries in the country. Oil and gas workers face many dangers every day that can lead to serious injury and death. One of the most common dangers oil and gas workers face are burn injuries. The risk of burn injuries may seem obvious given the highly combustible and flammable materials on the job site. Because of those materials, oil and gas refineries are prone to fires and explosions if workers are not following proper safety protocol or if equipment on the refinery is not adequately maintained or operated.
Crush injuries could mean anything from a damaged finger the entire body being compressed. When accidents or explosions occur on the job, structural damage can follow. In some cases, workers are trapped under heavy, sharp, or hot debris for hours, waiting for recovery teams to scour through the damaged plant. Even just a few seconds under a large piece of metal could result in nerve damage, disfigurement, or worse.
Other results of crush injuries include damage to:
- Blood Vessels
- Soft Tissues
Psychological trauma can also affect a victim, making it difficult for them to return to work. Extreme cases can even result in loss of sensation in the crushed part or even paralysis. If cell death occurs, an injured worker may be forced to amputate the injured body part. This can cause serious difficulties and require major adjustments for the rest of the injured worker's life. Amputation can also occur immediately during an accident; if an explosion causes equipment or pieces of metal to fly in the area, a worker may have a limb or body part severed. In addition to the medical complications and intense pain, these traumatic injuries will involve serious emotional and mental challenges for the injured worker.
With electricity necessary for a large number of manufacturing processes, thousands of workers are exposed to the possibility of electrocution every day. Electrocution hazards exist over a range of industries and occupations. The source of exposure can be as innocuous as a broken bulb or as obvious as a live power line. Every year, close to 350 American workers die as a result of electrical injuries in the workplace.
Injuries sustained in an electrical accident can be classified into four categories:
- Electric shock
- Burn injuries
- Fatal electrocution
- Contact with a live energy source
Electrocution can occur when electrical equipment is used in an unauthorized manner; for instance, using equipment that is marked for use only in dry areas in an outdoor environment or making use of modified tools.
The following are good steps to follow to prevent these types of injuries from occurring:
- Employers must identify and make workers aware of overhead and buried power lines;
- Using fiberglass or wood ladders that do not conduct electricity near power lines;
- All electrical equipment must be well maintained and inspected regularly before use;
- Any electrical tools that have cracked casings or loose wires must be removed from service;
- All equipment must be used according to the manufacturer's instructions;
- The power supply system including electrical circuits must be sufficiently grounded; and
- Only three-conductor type extension cords that are marked for industrial use must be employed.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), around 2,000 workers in the U.S. receive eye injuries each day. Most eye injuries are caused by flying debris, including wood chips, sparks, and small particles of metal, with the U.S. Department of Labor estimating that these make up 70% of eye injuries. About 20% of eye damage is caused by contact with harmful chemicals.
Workplace eye injuries can vary greatly, but commonly include:
- Corneal abrasions
- Decreased visibility
- Bleeding in the space between the cornea and the iris
- Muscle damage
- Retinal damage
- Subconjunctival hemorrhaging
- Swollen eyes or eyelids
Traumatic iritis, in which a blow to the eye causes inflammation of the colored part of the eye. Over 40% of workplace eye injuries were inflicted on craft workers, like carpenters, industrial workers, plumbers, and construction workers, although eye damages do occur in every industry.
Precautions to Avoid Eye Injuries
Most eye injuries can be avoided by wearing proper protective gear. This includes safety goggles, which provide much more thorough protection than just glasses by enclosing all entry points to the eyes. Face shields can further protect the eyes, as well as the face from harmful debris or chemicals. Welders and nearby workers should also take precautions to protect against ultraviolet (UV) burns (also known as welder's flash). Different kinds of soldering and welding will require darker tints to protect the eyes.
Protective equipment is only effective if it is used properly and maintained consistently. To provide adequate protection, industries such as construction require that goggles be marked with the Z87 or Z87+ grade. Enforcement of policies regarding the constant use of goggles and other safety gear will ensure that lapses do not occur. Training employees on the importance of equipment and how to ensure that it is being worn properly can also maximize its effectiveness. It is also important to keep medical equipment on site to quickly treat any workplace eye injuries that may occur. An eyewash station will help workers to quickly wash out harmful chemicals or particles, while a basic first-aid kit will provide bandages, swabs, and other useful items that can reduce damage in case of an incident.
For every person, the hands are an essential part of everyday life. From driving and cooking to opening doors, our hands let us perform everyday tasks, and we may not appreciate how much more difficult life would be without them. For workers whose hands have been injured on the job, life holds a host of new difficulties and frustrations. Unfortunately, hand injuries account for over 25% of workplace injuries, whether the damage is immediate or develops over time. An injured hand can mean a loss of income and substantial medical bills. With several fine bones working together in an area that is placed near machinery when it is operated, it is easy to see how a hand injury could cause serious damage.
Common workplace hand injuries:
- Broken bones
- Carpal tunnel
- Crushed hand
Gloves are the most useful form of protection against hand injuries and can be insulated or lined with protective materials to prevent damage from blades, adverse temperatures, or hazardous slippery surfaces. Training and enforcement of formalized procedures will help maximize the benefit of gloves, and employers should ensure that they are providing high-quality gloves to protect their workers.
Occupational hand injuries can be caused in numerous ways, including:
- Catching hands or fingers in chains or gears
- Cutting mechanisms amputating all or part of a hand
- Improper insulation on electric tools causing burns
- Jagged tools
- Long-term exposure to heat or cold
- Objects falling on hands
- Sharp edges on equipment
Most injuries can be reduced or prevented altogether with adequate gloves that are properly worn and maintained.
Tips for Preventing Hand Injuries
- Wear Gloves - Safety gloves are essential for protecting your hands. A pair of safety gloves can prevent minor injuries such as cuts, splinters, burns, blisters, and scrapes. If your job involves working with chemicals, you will also want to make sure your gloves are made of a material that can stand up the chemicals you handle. Make sure that the gloves you wear fit your hand properly and offer enough protection and flexibility to allow you to perform your job safely. Replace your gloves as soon as you notice any holes, tears, or other damage to the material.
- Be Careful Around Machinery - Machinery is the biggest threat to immediate and debilitating hand injuries. Before using any piece of machinery, you should make sure you have been properly trained on how to use it and are aware of the safety features and switches that cut power to the machine in the event of an emergency. Before using any machine, make sure you have removed rings, bracelets, watches, or any other accessory that could get stuck on one the parts or otherwise endanger your hands.
- Stay Alert - Many workplace injuries are the result of carelessness or a lack of focus. Whether you are working with dangerous machinery, a chemical substance, or anything else that could pose a risk to your hand, make sure that you stay focused and are cognizant of proper safety protocol. Keep your eyes and mind focused on the task in front of you, and you can greatly reduce the chance of suffering an injury.
Head injuries can include both closed head injuries where there is blunt force trauma to the head and no splitting of the skull and penetrating injuries where there is penetration of the skull by bone fragments. A penetrating head injury can also lead to foreign matter entering the skull, causing an infection. Head injuries may or may not result in brain injuries.
Causes & Effects of Head Injuries
Head injuries may result from a fall or from being struck by a heavy object or load in the workplace. When a worker is trapped in a collapsed mine, hit by falling debris, or slips through scaffolding, the impact of the accident can cause head injuries that will vary in severity. Head injuries may be caused not just by the direct physical impact of heavy force on the head, but also by secondary factors that are set off after the accident such as swelling in the skull, interruption of blood circulation, and damage to the nerve fibers in the skull. Both primary and secondary injuries can have long-term and devastating effects on a person's health.
Some of the most common types of head injuries include:
- Skull Fracture: A skull fracture may be visible in the form of bleeding, swelling, and bruising near the area, or may not be visible at all. A skull fracture denotes a significant head injury that may lead to brain injury.
- Intracranial Hemorrhage: There may be bleeding inside the skull or the formation of blood clots.
- Cerebral Contusion: Cerebral contusion may cause damage to be manifested in memory/attention problems.
- Concussion: A concussion can cause a temporary lack of awareness, disorientation, confusion, and lack of memory that can last for a few minutes or a few hours after the head injury.
Not all head injuries result in brain injuries, but brain injuries are almost always caused when significant pressure or force is applied to the head. The level and intensity of the injury may vary depending on the severity of the head injury. Traumatic brain injuries are commonly seen as a result of falls from high points or after being struck in the head. With mild forms, the victim may experience increased sensitivity to noise and light, depression, memory loss, and attention deficit problems. Moderate traumatic brain injury can cause motor and cognitive impairment that requires extensive therapy and rehabilitation to treat. In severe traumatic brain injury, the victim remains in a vegetative state, coma, or a minimally responsive state. A victim of a severe traumatic brain injury may require round-the-clock care.
A neck injury can occur as a result of repetitive movements that strain the neck and shoulder. Physical activities that call for a static load to be placed in the neck and shoulder region, repeated movements of the arm and shoulders, or extreme work posture that strains the muscles of this region can lead to neck injuries with long-lasting effects. Moreover, the use of vibrating tools like drills and electric saws can place pressure on the musculoskeletal system. Employers must identify the kind of repetitive tasks that can result in neck injury and train workers in the correct techniques to minimize the risk of such injuries. Regular breaks between repetitive tasks can take some of the pressure off the neck and shoulder muscles. The work area must be sufficiently illuminated to prevent the need for stretching of the neck for better visibility while working. Employers must also recognize the early signs of a developing neck injury and take steps to minimize its effects before the condition worsens.
Spinal Cord Injuries
A wide range of serious injuries can occur when an accident happens on the job. Spinal cord damage is one of the most serious situations a person can face after a workplace accident, as this can lead to long-term complications ranging from chronic pain to paralysis. When the nerves of the spinal cord are damaged, the body may no longer be able to communicate with the brain properly.
Spinal cord injuries manifest in a range of symptoms
- Chronic pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Impaired coordination or mobility
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Numbness / tingling
- Paralysis, including paraplegia or quadriplegia\
Severe spinal injuries could cause permanent damage, forever changing the victim's way of life. Everyday tasks such as walking, driving, eating, or shopping can become incredibly difficult if motor function or nerves are damaged. If you or a family member were injured on the job and suffered partial or complete paralysis, you should speak with an experienced trial lawyer as soon as possible to avoid missing out on the lifelong compensation to which you may be entitled.
Treating a spinal injury may require medical procedures and special equipment such as:
- Nutritional management
- Occupational therapy
- Reclining bed for the home
- Specialty car equipment for driving
- Wheelchair or crutches
Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries will differ depending upon which section of the spine sustained the trauma.
There are three major sections of the spine:
- Injuries to the cervical spine most often result in either full or complete quadriplegia. Quadriplegia is a condition in which all four limbs and the torso become both immobile and unable to sense feeling to a certain degree. The higher up the cervical injury, the greater the risks for loss of breathing function. Many patients that sustain injuries at the C3 vertebrae or above will have to rely on ventilators for breathing.
- Thoracic spinal injuries can occur anywhere from the T1 to T12 vertebrae. T1 to T8 injuries, in particular, will cause a total or partial loss of abdominal function, which can make remaining in a seated position difficult.
- Lower thoracic spinal injuries and injuries that extend into the lumbosacral region are notorious for resulting in loss of bladder or bowel function. Paraplegia is a condition that only affects the lower limbs, leaving the hands, arms, and torso functioning.
Spinal Injury Treatment Options
Severe trauma to the spinal cord can cause shards of bone to protrude into the surrounding tissue and nerves. To remediate this damage, surgery is often necessary. Doctors may need to insert pins or bone grafts to stabilize the spinal column. Steroids are another possible treatment. This can quicken the healing process; unfortunately, steroids also bring the risk of infection. After initial treatment, the patient will need to rehabilitate. Rehabilitation is necessary to strengthen muscles (if possible) as well as teach the individual to live with their disability. Some rehabilitation has been successful in nearly restoring complete muscle function. Patients can expect the most rapid part of their recovery within the first six months.
Sprains, Tears & Strains
Each year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics gathers data concerning hundreds of different topics, including Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities. The 2016 report shows that sprains, tears, and strains were the cause of 406,200 workplace injuries within the year. This staggering number is more than twice the amount of the next most common injury: 188,200 instances of soreness and pain.
Sprains, tears, and strains have more reported injuries than the following three categories combined:
- Soreness & Pain: 188,200
- Cuts, Lacerations, Punctures: 104,330
- Bruises & Contusions: 97,960
- Sprains, Tears, & Strains: 406,200
The Cause of Sprains, Tears & Strains
As you can see, these injuries are by far the most common type of injury. While the evidence is staggering, the numbers cannot reveal why sprains, tears, and strains happen so regularly. However, to prevent further injuries, it is critical to understand why these injuries occur.
Common causes of sprains, tears, and strains include:
- Carrying heavy weights
- Suffering slips, trips, and falls
- Repetitive strenuous motions
- Being in a vehicle accident
- Relying on improper techniques
- Dealing with broken tools
Preventing the Most Common Injury Type
While freak accidents can cause some injuries, other wounds are entirely avoidable.
It is vital that you protect yourself from sprains, tears, and strains by implementing these habits:
- Stretch your muscles before a strenuous workday.
- Stay hydrated to keep your muscles loose.
- If you face heavy resistance while trying to accomplish a physical action, stop what you are doing.
- Know your limits and tell a supervisor if your muscles are spent.
- Be aware of your surroundings to identify potential hazards
To learn more about how our law firm can help after suffering from a severe work injury, we encourage you to get the help that you need. Contact our lawyers today at (888) 493-1629 to schedule a free consultation.