Over the years, most common work-related injuries and fatality rates have decreased thanks to an increase in workplace health and safety measures. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA), daily occupational fatalities have gone down from 38 a day in 1970 to 15 a day in 2019 — but there is still a lot of work to do to get that number down to zero.
The most common work injuries are slips, trips, falls, overexertion, and contact with equipment. All of these injuries are mostly preventable by taking the proper precautions and adhering to OSHA’s guidelines. In this article, we are going to talk about the most common work-related injuries and provide some helpful guidelines on how to prevent them.
If you are currently experiencing any type of workplace injury, do not wait to seek medical attention. Even if it seems small, injuries due to falls, overexertion, burns, etc. can progress over time and cause serious complications later on.
What is the most common workplace injury?
1. Slips, trips, and falls
Slips, trips, and falls are some of the most common types of workplace injuries and are the top reason for worker’s compensation claims. This includes workers who:
- Slipped on an icy, oily, or wet floor
- Tripped due to unprotected sides or holes, poor lighting, or clutter
- Fell off ladders, roofs, or skyscraper construction areas
These types of injuries can be prevented by being aware of your surroundings and by following the Occupational Safety and Health Association’s (OSHA) fall protection requirements.
If you do work in an environment where falls are possible, it’s important to know what to do after falling on your back. Even when your injuries seem minor, they could have lasting consequences.
2. Overexertion and muscle strains
Overexertion injuries like muscle strains and repetitive strain injuries (RSI) can cause long-term debilitating pain and lead to an overall loss in productivity. This type of occupational injury can be caused by:
- Improper lifting technique
- Manually lifting heavy objects
- Repetitive work with no breaks
- Jumping to another level
- A collapsing structure
- Lifting, pushing, carrying, or throwing
- Microtasks on a factory line
- Typing or moving a mouse without good ergonomics
Your employer should have required training on how to perform physical tasks correctly and taught you how to prevent muscle strains. In the case that they didn’t, check out OSHA’s ergonomics training.
To avoid overexertion and reduce your risk for lasting physical harm, ensure you are receiving frequent breaks and that you are using that time to rest and stretch and utilizing the mechanical lifting equipment to lift anything over 50lbs.
If you are experiencing any overexertion pain or discomfort, don’t wait to head into an urgent care facility near you. Untreated injuries can progress over time, causing you more issues down the road.
3. Struck by workers, equipment, or falling objects
We’ve all walked into the sharp edge of a counter or turned into a wall, but when you’re working in a high-risk industry, these injuries can be far more serious. These types of injuries can include severe hand injuries, severed limbs or fingers, traumatic head injuries, stress fractures or full bone breaks, blindness, and more.
Workplace injuries of this nature are commonly caused by:
- Poorly guarded machinery
- Falling tools, debris, or materials
- A part of the worker’s body being caught in a wire or gears
- Dropped loads
- Pressure between the person and the source of the injury
- The tipping over of heavy equipment
- Excessive vibration
- Bumping into an object or equipment
- Being pushed into a hard surface of any kind
- Walking into walls or machinery
Thankfully, many of these accidents can be prevented by staying aware of your surroundings, following established policies and procedures, using the proper personal protective equipment (PPE), avoiding loose clothing, and putting away unnecessary hazards.
4. Crashes or collisions
Whether you’re driving a motor vehicle or are working around them, you are at risk of getting hurt in a crash or collision. For example, if you’re working on the ground in a warehouse, you could be hit or run over by a forklift.
Other instances resulting in a crash or collision could include:
- Falling from a vehicle
- Getting stuck under an overturned vehicle
- Large-truck drivers drinking and driving
- Being struck by objects falling from a vehicle
- Semi, tractor-trailer, and tanker truck crashes
When operating any type of motorized vehicle, ensure you are wearing your seat belt and taking the proper safety measures established by your employer.
5. Exposure to harmful substances or environments
Those who work in loud environments or around hazardous chemicals risk severe injuries to their ears, eyes, skin, and respiratory systems if they are exposed without proper protection.
Be sure to familiarize yourself with any chemical safety data sheets and wear proper ear protection, safety goggles, gloves, and any other required PPE when exposed to harmful substances or loud noises.
Those who work with or around heavy-duty cleaning crews should also know how to recognize signs of bleach poisoning symptoms.
6. Fire and explosions
Fires and explosions can burn your body tissue, cause severe damage to your respiratory system, and potentially cause disfigurement. This type of workplace injury is not too common, but it does have the highest casualty rate depending on how close you are to the blast. Injuries for explosions are categorized into four types based on the level of impact to your body:
- Primary blast: injury caused by the blast wave unique to high order explosions
- Secondary blast: injury due to flying objects or debris displaced by the blast wind
- Tertiary blast: injury due to displacement through the air or a structure collapse
- Quaternary blast: all other injuries including crush injuries, burns, radiation, and inhaling toxic substances
To avoid these types of injuries, ensure that you and your coworkers are following OSHA’s hazard communication standards, wearing the proper personal protective equipment (PPE), and maintaining chemical safety data sheets for all chemicals.
7. Violence and other injuries by persons or animals
As much as we’d like to think that fighting at work doesn’t exist, it happens. Compounding stress and tension can result in an aggressive confrontation from an employee or customer, leading to harassment, intimidation, and even physical assault. Injury caused by animals can also be a concern for foresters and individuals working on a farm or in other environments where animals, like dogs, are present.
One of the best ways for an employee to avoid workplace violence is to set a zero-tolerance policy covering all individuals who come in contact with company personnel. When working with animals, you can reduce injury by wearing the proper attire, following guidelines set by your employer, and staying alert at all times.
Common causes of work-related fatalities
The “fatal four” work-related fatalities leading to death include:
- Being struck by a moving vehicle or object/motor vehicle crashes
- Slips, trips, and falls from tall heights
- Getting caught in or between machines, devices, or tools
Although you cannot control when an accident occurs, there are steps you can take to reduce work-related injuries and help keep yourself safe.
If you feel or suspect that the safety of yourself or others is at risk, never hesitate to report your workplace to the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA). OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program protects employees from retaliation for reporting any suspected violations.