Thanks to new technologies and changing workplace conditions, the total number of workplace injuries and illnesses is trending downward. However, there were still 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries in 2016 alone, and every year, millions more people suffer from falls, impacts, and other accidents in the workplace. Successfully preventing and/or addressing these injuries is imperative if you want to protect your health and finances, but there are some important facts that many employees never learn.
What You Should Know About Workplace Injuries
No matter where you work or what your workspace is like, you should understand these fundamentals about workplace injuries.
- Most injuries are preventable. Given enough knowledge and resources, all accidents are hypothetically preventable. Unfortunately, we’re bound to operate with limited knowledge and, in many cases, limited resources. Still, the vast majority of accidents are preventable if you and your coworkers follow safety standards to the letter. Most workplace injuries happen when people deviate from the standard safety procedure, so work to understand your environment, and err on the side of caution throughout your workdays.
- Your employers are responsible for training you on safety standards. It’s your employer’s job to train you and your coworkers on safety standards. They’re responsible for ensuring that you know and understand the safety precautions necessary to prevent workplace injuries. If you weren’t trained properly (or at all), they may be held liable in the event of an injury.
- Workers’ compensation insurance covers any injury. Workers’ compensation insurance is designed to cover any injury. That means no matter what the nature of the injury is, how it happened, or who’s at fault, you should file a workers’ comp claim. If it happens at work, you’ll want to file a report and seek compensation for medical bills, missed wages, and other damages you’ve suffered.
- Legal action may be appropriate. In cases where workers’ compensation isn’t being handled correctly, in cases of extreme negligence, or in other cases where an employee’s rights are violated, it’s not only possible, but recommended to take legal action. Legal action can help you recover any medical expenses or damages that aren’t a part of your initial compensation, and may hold your employer responsible for fixing something that’s wrong with the workplace—preventing future accidents from unfolding.
- All accidents must be documented. Any accident that happens in the workplace should be documented, for many reasons. For starters, employers are required to keep accurate documentation on any and all accidents and injuries that happen on their grounds. Workers’ compensation claims also require formal reporting. You may also want to document the events surrounding and leading up to the injury for your own purposes, in case you need to take legal action against your employer in the future.
- Injuries aren’t necessarily acute. Not all workplace injuries happen as the result of an accident or a sudden incident; instead, many workplace injuries gradually develop over time. For example, a person who habitually lifts heavy objects without adequate support will likely develop chronic back pain, and a person who does lots of typing without adequate support may develop carpal tunnel syndrome. These are workplace injuries like any other and can be covered by workers’ compensation as well.
- You can (and should) report unsafe conditions. If you see or notice any unsafe conditions in your workplace, it’s your responsibility to bring them up to your direct supervisor. Express your desire to keep the workplace safe and injury-free, and if you can, make a recommendation for how to handle the situation. If your supervisor ignores your request, you may need to file a grievance with a higher authority; workplace safety is not to be taken lightly.
Facing an Injury
Even understanding and taking all security precautions, it’s possible to experience an accident. It’s simply not possible to prevent 100 percent of workplace injuries. But if you do experience one, or witness one, it’s imperative that you act quickly and appropriately to resolve the situation. That means giving the victim first aid as soon as possible, documenting the incident, and reporting it to an immediate supervisor. Acting quickly and documenting the incident responsibly could save someone’s life.