Protect yourself against workplace injury

When we go out to work each day we don’t expect to get injured. We expect to be able to carry out our commitments and responsibilities in the workplace environment without being physically at risk. There is a certain amount of trust we place in our employers, to ensure our safety, and afford us adequate levels of security on the job.

But is our trust misplaced? Should we really feel safe at work?

Well, that is the million-dollar question, impossible to answer – but the evidence suggests worker safety levels are being eroded over time. Whether this is due to cost cutting measures, casual or deliberate negligence or a change in attitudes, it’s hard to say, but there’s no arguing with the statistics that highlight the plight of Americans being injured in the workplace – back in 2010 a staggering 4,500 US citizens were killed at work, while non-fatal but serious injuries struck down thousands of others.

Ask the question

Those workers who don’t know where they stand in terms of cover or protection from their employer in the event of a work accident should do a little digging. To protect yourself against workplace injury ask questions about the extent of the cover provided by the employer in the event of an accident when on work premises. If it is discovered that the accident coverage is either non-existent or inadequate, it is a good idea to secure the services of a specialist attorney who can fight your corner and win the rights you are entitled to.

Many workers these days are appointed on temporary contracts that do not enjoy the same level of injury cover as full time employees. When accidents happen to temp workers, things quickly get very complicated as often there are disputes over who is liable – is it the temp agency or the employer?

Don’t become a statistic

Nobody expects to get injured at work, but every day people’s lives are changed forever by accidents in the workplace. Here’s a run down of the most common workplace accidents; the more aware we are of the bad stuff that can go down at work, hopefully the more vigilant and safe we can be.

Top of the list are over exertion injuries. Lifting a box that’s too heavy for example can result in an over exertion trauma. Other movements such as pushing, pulling, carrying, throwing and holding all produce similar results and rack up the highest nationwide medical expenses.

Are there loose carpets, floor tiles or wet surfaces in your work environment? If so, beware, because the second most common accident you’re likely to have at work is slipping or tripping. Focus on leaving walkways clear and paths between computer terminals should not be cluttered by bags, etc.

Falling from heights, whether from a roof, stairways or ladders will cause serious injury. The Christmas period sees a rise in such accidents when employees put up seasonal decorations – standing on an office swivel chair to deck the halls is highly inadvisable and probably fails to comply with work safety regulations.

Reaction injuries, where muscles are torn as a person tries to break their fall, for example, are next on the list. Keeping walkways clear and unobstructed aids in the prevention of such injuries.

If hard hats were worn and other safety precautions more rigorously applied, objects falling onto people wouldn’t be the next on the list – whether it’s items tumbling from high shelves or construction tools being dropped from above, head injuries caused by falling objects are a real threat in the workplace.

Driving a vehicle already has inherent dangers, which is why injuries to people in vehicles at work are high on the list. No matter if it’s a truck, a car, a bus or a train – be extra vigilant to avoid harm as the odds are against you.

Factory workers on automated assembly lines and others who deal with heavy mechanical equipment are at risk of injury from machine entanglement. Fingers, clothing, shoes and hair get trapped in equipment, causing injury or worse. Wearing the correct protective clothing and following safety procedures is essential in such potentially dangerous environments.

Repetitive injuries are a common cause of work injury. Office workers, sitting at computers all day frequently get struck down by conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome and are prone to neck and back ailments. Using ergonomically designed office furniture and heightening awareness among staff can minimize such issues.

When all possible injuries are listed like that, it’s a wonder any of us get out of bed in the morning! However, you should definitely proceed on the basis that it’s better the devil you know – and focus on safety and diligence in the workplace to keep you and your colleagues free from injury.