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Leading Causes of Work-Related Injuries

Lady worker sleeping on desk after overexerting herself at the office

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Overexertion, falls, and being struck by objects are the three leading causes of work-related injuries for U.S. workers. These injuries have a significant impact on lost workdays and workers’ compensation claims filed by workers every year.

Lady worker sleeping on desk after overexerting herself at the office

Work-Related Injuries for American Workers

Each year, the Bureau of Labor issues annual reports for the leading causes of work-related injuries for American workers. The leading causes of injuries – overexertion, slips, trips, and falls, and contact with objects – make up a significant portion of workers’ compensation claims across the country.

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

National Safety Council injury statistics list overexertion, slips, trips, and falls, and contact with objects as the top three causes of injuries to American workers:


The leading cause of work-related injuries is overexertion. It accounts for 31.4 percent of on-the-job injuries for workers in all age groups. Overexertion injuries commonly cause sprains, pulled muscles, torn ligaments, joint injuries, neck and back injuries, and heat strokes. Forceful lifting of heavy objects puts a lot of strain on muscles and joints. Workplace overexertion is often caused by:

  • Lifting or moving of heavy objects
  • Stretching or reaching for objects above the head
  • Looking up for long periods of time
  • Bending or squatting throughout the day
  • Twisting or turning at awkward body angles
  • Working outdoors or in temperatures that are too warm

Overexertion can also be caused by repetitive stress motions involving daily work tasks such as typing on computer equipment, loading and unloading boxes, working on an assembly line, building and construction projects, and other micro tasks that require constant hand, wrist, and arm movements. Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the leading injuries caused by repetitive stress motions. It affects millions of U.S. workers, often with disabling, long-term injuries.

Slips, Trips, and Falls

The second-leading cause of work-related injuries is slips, trips, and falls, accounting for 26.7 percent of work-related injuries. Depending on the distance of the fall and the material that cushions the landing, fall accidents result in a variety of injuries including cuts and bruises; fractures and broken bones; serious head injuries; traumatic brain injuries (TBI), and death. There are three types of falls that account for the majority of injury claims handled by workers comp lawyers:

Falls to the Same Level – Slip, trip, and fall accidents to the same level account for 18 percent of workplace injuries. They are usually less severe because the fall involves less distance, but even short-distance falls onto concrete and stone can cause a severe injury.

Falls to Lower Levels – Falls to lower levels only account for about 9 percent of workplace injuries, but they can still cause severe body and head injuries. Warehouse and construction workers are at higher risk for falls to lower levels.

Falls from Heights – Falls from heights cause more than one-third of all deaths for construction workers. In 2017, 747 construction workers died, representing 14.5 percent of total work fatalities during the year. Fatality statistics listed roofers, structural iron and steelworkers, and electrical line installers as the leading fatality victims.

Contact with Objects

The third-leading cause of work-related injuries involve workers coming in contact with objects or equipment that can cause severe injuries. Common causes of these types of injuries include:

  • Getting struck by falling objects
  • Being hit by moving equipment or vehicles
  • Getting crushed or pinned by falling objects or moving equipment
  • Getting crushed or buried by collapsing structures or underground tunnels and trenches

These types of accidents account for about 26.2 percent of worker injuries. There are high risks of catastrophic injuries including crushed limbs and amputations, damage to internal organs, severe head trauma and/or brain damage, permanent disabilities, and death.

In Illinois, all employers with at least one full-time employee or part-time employees are required to provide workers compensation insurance to workers. In most cases, work-related injuries are covered under workers’ compensation, and injured workers receive benefits for medical bills, lost wages, and rehabilitation expenses.

Employers are required to file workers comp claims with insurers within a limited time after an injury occurs, so workers must report injuries as soon as possible to their employers. If an injury claim is denied by an insurer, a Chicago workers comp lawyer can file an appeal and work with the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission and insurance companies to get the claim approved.

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As the founder of the firm, Neal has devoted his life to working for the worker. His achievements are numerous and beyond reproach. He is most proud of his work in helping clients obtain valuable benefits, such as a wheelchair ramp to his home or lifetime medical care.

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