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Injured on the Job: The Most Disabling Workplace Injuries Last Year

Posted On February 06, 2020

Overexertion and same-level falls were the top causes of disabling work injuries last year. On average, U.S. companies lose more than $1 billion per week due to disabling workplace injuries.

Workplace Injury Statistics

In the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks and reports workplace injuries that occur around the country. In 2018, statistics showed 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private industry employers. There were 900,380 injuries or illnesses that caused workers to miss at least one day of work, but some injuries caused short-term or long-term disabling conditions that impacted worker’s jobs, incomes, and lifestyle.

According to the National Safety Council, occupations that contribute to the most severe or disabling workplace injuries include:

  • Public services such as police officers and firefighters
  • Emergency medical responders
  • Transportation and shipping
  • Manufacturing and production
  • Construction
  • Electrical installation, maintenance, and repair

In 2018, the number of non-fatal injuries in retail occupations increased by 4% to 410,000 cases. Within the retail trade industry, general merchandise stores reported 96,000 employee injuries; restaurants and food services reported 92,600; motor vehicle and parts dealers reported 61,500; building material and garden supply stores reported 53,800.

Although most workplace injuries are non-fatal and preventable, millions of injured workers face more severe consequences that have a significant impact on their lifestyle. While many workplace accidents cause sprains, bruises, and lacerations, some result in disabling injuries like broken bones, serious burns, amputations, neck and back dislocation, spinal damage, head trauma, and brain damage. These types of injuries often lead to job loss, extensive medical bills, and short-term, long-term, or permanent disabilities that require life-long care.

National Safety Council statistics show that an American worker is injured on the job every 7 seconds, accounting for a high number of work-related injury claims seen by Chicago workers compensation attorneys and insurance companies every year. According to reports, there are 540 work injuries per hour; 12,900 work injuries per day; 90,400 work injuries per week; and 7 million work injuries per year. On average, each work injury results in 21 days of disability per worker, and 99 million days of lost productivity for employers each year.

Top Causes of Disabling Workplace Injuries

The Bureau of Labor Statistics issues annual reports for the top causes of disabling workplace injuries for U.S. workers. The most common workplace injuries correlate to some of the most common workplace accidents that make up workers’ compensation claims seen in the Chicago area, as well as other areas around the country. In 2019, reports showed the following results for top disabling workplace injuries.

Overexertion

Overexertion was the leading cause of disabling injuries on the job for American workers in all age groups, accounting for almost 24% of serious annual injuries. Overexertion injuries typically result in strains or sprains to the muscles, tendons or ligaments that occur from lifting or forceful exertion that exceeds the strength of the muscle group. Workplace overexertion is often caused by lifting or moving heavy objects, stretching or reaching above the head, bending or turning quickly or at awkward angles, and looking up for long periods of time.

Overexertion can also be caused by repetitive stress motions involving daily tasks on computer equipment, manufacturing assembly lines, shipping and delivery trucks, building and construction projects, and other micro tasks that require constant hand and arm movements. Carpal tunnel syndrome, a common condition caused by repetitive stress motions, affects millions of U.S. workers with disabling long-term injuries.

Falls

The second-leading cause of disabling injuries for workers is fall accidents. Depending on the distance of the fall and the material that cushions the landing, falls can cause a variety of injuries that range from broken bones to brain damage or even death. Falls account for high numbers of work-related injury claims seen by workers compensation attorneys.

  • Falls to the Same Level – Slip, trip, and fall accidents to the same level account for 18.7% of workplace injuries. They are usually less severe because the fall involves less distance, but even short-distance falls that land victims on concrete or hard surfaces can result in a disabling blow.
  • Falls to a Lower Level – Falls to lower levels account for only 9% of workplace injuries, but these types of falls are often severe or even fatal for workers. The construction industry experiences the highest frequency of fatal fall injuries seen in workers’ compensation cases.

Struck by Objects or Equipment

The third-leading cause of disabling injuries for workers is coming in contact with objects or equipment that can cause severe injury. This includes getting struck by falling objects or collapsing structures, hit by moving vehicles or industrial equipment, and crushed by machinery and equipment. Although these types of accidents account for only 9.4% of workplace injuries, consequences are often limb amputations, internal organ damage, severe head trauma, and permanent brain damage.

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