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Occupational Hazards: Work Related Injuries and Fatalities

Granite Law Group

While perusing the web during lunch, I came across this article by Market Watch entitled “10 Things Your Office Won’t Say.” Intrigued I decided to read it and was quite surprised to learn all of the various ways that working in an office is hazardous to my health. Some I already knew because our firm deals with workers’ compensation injuries but the article got me thinking so I decided to delve into this further.

Work Related Injuries and Illnesses Statistics

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistic s, in 2011 there were 2,986,500 nonfatal work-related injuries and illnesses in the private sector and 802,900 nonfatal work-related injuries and illnesses in the public sector. In the private sector, 908,300 of those cases involved time away from work. Cases involving sprains and strains numbered 340,870 and cases involving back injuries totaled 182,270.

Slip, Trip & Falls

Of all the cases in 2011, 225,550 involved falls, slips or trips. Torn carpets, uneven stairs, unsafe floors, and running cords along the floor are just a few examples of tripping hazards in the workplace. Water, ice, and other foreign substances can also cause a slipping hazard. Falls can occur without slipping or tripping. Often these occur when employees try to climb a bookcase or file cabinet or other item in order to reach something. This is not safe and is not recommended. In other sectors, such as construction, a fall might be from scaffolding, a building, or equipment. There were 666 fatalities attributed to falls, slips and trips in 2011.

Office Workers

If you think you’re safe from workplace injuries because you work in an office, think again. There were 280 fatal injuries in sales and related occupations. Additionally, according to the MarketWatch article, you can also get “sick building syndrome”, germs from coworkers, bugs including the prevalent and pesky bed bug, pests and noise pollution from green buildings and the reduction of the standard cubicle as well as have your productivity be affected by office temperature. Additionally the office worker can suffer injuries and medical conditions including but not limited to an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity from sitting all day, carpal tunnel from typing all day, glaucoma from staring at a screen all day, lower back pain, neck and shoulder pain and other disorders of the wrist, now common with IPad usage.

Construction Workers

By nature, the construction industry is more dangerous than working in an office and the statistics reflect that. In 2010, there were 780 work-related fatalities in the construction industry. Unsafe and hazardous construction sites often contribute to these premature deaths. Construction site negligence, equipment malfunction, and human error are the largest contributors to construction site injuries and fatalities.

Trucking and Highway Accidents

Transportation accidents are also prevalent in the construction industry because of the frequent use of large trucks and construction equipment. But any employee on the road is at risk for a transportation accident and when the accident involves a truck, the injuries are often catastrophic or fatal. There were 1, 857 work-related transportation accidents resulting in a fatalities in 2010. 1,044 of these occurred on the highway. In the transportation and material moving occupations, there were 1,160 fatalities in 2010 which exceeds even the fatalities in the construction industry. Long-haul truckers who might be sleep deprived contribute to this statistic. In fact, the largest net increase in fatal work injuries was in occupations involving drivers of tractor trailer trucks and other heavy trucks. 610 cases arose in 2010.

Dog Bites

It is often parodied on television about the dog biting the mailman but dogs pose a serious threat to all delivery carriers. Dog bites are often quite traumatic and can result in permanent damage and scarring. Dog attacks have also occurred at private businesses when owners allow their employees to take their pets to work or when business owners use guard dogs for security measures. Working with animals poses its own danger and employees might find themselves with a workers’ compensation claim after having been attacked by an animal or dog at work and sustained significant injuries.

Pedestrian Accidents

In 2011 there were 61 pedestrian fatalities. These pedestrians were struck in a work zone. Drivers must heed speed limits and take special care when road construction workers are present. Fatalities arising from highway and bridge construction totaled 65 in 2011.

A General Overview of Workers’ Compensation

If you were injured in a work-related accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Workers’ compensation insurance is purchased by your employer to cover all employees in the event of an accident or injury. To be eligible for workers’ compensation, the injury or accident had to have occurred in the course and scope of your employment and you would have to be legally employed.This insurance will cover 60% of your wages for the period that a doctor deems you unable to work and your medical bills relating to the injury or condition you sustained. If you are injured during the course and scope of your employment you must report your to your employer in a timely fashion.

Most work place injuries will heal overtime and after a short leave from work, most employees are able to return to their jobs. Workers’ compensation will have paid wages at 60% for the time the employee was out of work and will have covered all related medical bills. Often the goal is to get an employee back to work in any capacity, including transferring the employee to a light duty job at the same company at the same pay. However, sometimes an injury is severe enough that the employee is not able to return to his or her particular job. In these cases, an attorney can help you negotiate a lump sum settlement which represents, among other things, compensation for future lost wages which you would have earned had you been able to return to this job. Workers’ compensation insurance would also cover occupational therapy and vocational training, if applicable, to get the injured employee back to some work capacity. Once a lump sum settlement is approved, the medical portion of your claim remains open for the duration of your life.

If you have been injured at work, contact the Granite Law Group for a free case evaluation.

Third Party Claims

In some cases, in addition to a workers’ compensation claim, an employee may also have a claim against a third party for neligence. This is often the case in work related motor vehicle accidents [MA /NH], dog attacks [MA /NH], or cases involving faulty or dangerous products in the workplace. While the employee is out on workers’ compensation, he or she will be able to get 60% of his or her lost wages and workers’ compensation will pay for his or her medical bills. However, when the employee makes a claim against a third party, for example a negligent driver, the injured worker can recover for “pain and suffering” which is not collectible in a workers’ compensation claim. If a settlement is reached, the employee needs to re-pay workers’ compensation for all of the benefits already paid.

If you were injured in a work related accident that may involve a third party, contact the Granite Law Group for a free case evaluation. Feel free to fill out our Free Case Evaluation form and an attorney will be in contact with you during business hours to discuss your case.

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