What Are Common Causes of Workplace Injuries?
Virtually any workplace can be the scene of an accident, injury, or death. However, some jobs are more inherently dangerous than others. For example, the OSHA reports that the construction industry accounts for roughly one out of every five work-related deaths in the United States.
The following are the top causes of workplace injuries as compiled from various national labor and safety agencies.
People who drive cars, trucks, vans, SUVs, or commercial trucks as part of their jobs face many risks on the road: bad drivers, inclement weather, and faulty equipment.
Also included in vehicle accident statistics are injuries sustained by people who routinely work near moving vehicles. These vehicles could include heavy equipment, such as cranes, tractors, and forklifts, that have limited visibility and may lack warning devices.
Slip and Fall Accidents
There are many different reasons a worker could slip and fall at work, including:
- Slick, wet, or icy surfaces due to spills or tracked-in materials.
- Torn, worn, or loose carpeting and rugs.
- Debris or work materials in pathways.
- Loose cords or machinery parts in the way.
- Uneven or unstable decks or flooring.
- Poor lighting, poor pathway guards, or markings.
Falls are a leading cause of worker injury and death in the construction industry. Workers are often performing their jobs at heights. They constantly risk falling from roofs, ladders, platforms, scaffolding, and other elevated surfaces. Sometimes, the fall results from defective safety equipment or lift equipment.
Electrocution-related injuries are common in construction, manufacturing, and anywhere electricity is key to getting the job done. In a factory setting, workers can be hurt by working around exposed or worn cords, ungrounded wires, or faulty outlets. Their power tools can also cause electrical shock.
In a construction setting, high-rising equipment can unknowingly hit power lines, and so can laborers who need to work near them. Those who need to dig for their jobs can also run into buried power lines.
Overexertion is a prevalent cause of job-related injuries. An employee who must pull, lift, push, throw, or transport materials all day long is at risk for soft tissue and back injuries, many of which can cause long-term and chronic pain.
Examples of overexertion include:
- Improper lifting technique.
- Manually lifting heavy objects.
- Repetitive work with no breaks.
- Jumping to another level frequently.
- Lifting, pushing, carrying, or throwing.
- Microtasks on a factory line.
Struck By Objects
It is not uncommon for objects to fall from above accidentally in many workplaces. For example, a warehouse worker could be struck by materials stored high on shelving or transported by a forklift.
Machinery or other equipment could also malfunction and throw, fly, roll, or swing materials into a worker. Sometimes, another worker is careless and loses control of materials, too.
Workplaces and job sites are busy, loud, and sometimes not well-marked for safety. A worker in various settings can walk or get pushed into a door, cabinet, machinery, vehicle, traffic zone, or other hazardous areas or pinned between stationary objects. Whatever the cause, striking against any object can cause serious injury.
Heavy machinery and other work equipment have many moving parts. A piece of clothing, jewelry, accessory, or a body part runs the risk of becoming entangled in a part of the machine itself. Crushing, amputation, and other serious injuries are often the result of these accidents.
Many jobs require an employee to perform the same maneuvers and use the same muscles all day long. These tasks can involve primary arm and leg muscles or the smaller muscles and nerves of the fingers or hand. Nerve and soft tissue damage from repetitive motion can require surgery and the need for time off to restore function.
Defective or Malfunctioning Equipment
While not a top cause of worker injury or death, defective and malfunctioning equipment does make its way to the workplace, causing injury. A piece of work equipment, a vehicle, power tool, or machinery can be defective in its original design or the manufacturing process. These defects are often not discovered until workers are injured or killed.
Sometimes, the defect or malfunction results from missing or inconsistent maintenance and inspection by the employer. There should be a clear and consistent process to ensure all work equipment is in good and safe working order.