A Guide to the Most Common Workplace Injuries and Accidents

A Guide to the Most Common Workplace Injuries and Accidents

In the U.S. alone, there are about 2.6 million nonfatal workplace accidents and injuries in the private industry each year, with workplace injuries and illnesses costing the U.S. an estimated $250 billion each year. In 2021 there were 5,190 fatalities as a result of workplace injuries in the U.S. With startling figures like this, and continuously increasing in other regions around the world, it’s important for organizations to understand the intricacies around workplace injuries and accidents including those that are most common. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting your career, having a strong grasp of these everyday workplace hazards and challenges is key to fostering a good culture around workplace safety. From exposure to high temperatures to a split-second loss of balance or falling asleep at the wheel, this guide navigates through the extensive world of workplace injuries and accidents, and shows how to steer toward a secure and thriving environment for all employees. 

What is a workplace injury?

What do the statistics on workplace injuries reveal?

Most common injuries on the job

Most common causes of workplace injuries

What are the employer’s safety obligations?

What injuries can staff claim for at work?

How to receive pay and benefits when unable to work

How can workplace injuries be prevented?

How can technology be used to mitigate workplace injuries?

Conclusion


What is a workplace injury?

A workplace injury refers to any physical harm, damage, or illness that occurs to an employee while they are performing their workplace responsibilities or as a result of their work environment. These injuries can range from minor incidents like cuts or bruises to more severe accidents such as fractures, sprains, strains, burns, or even life-threatening situations. 

According to  RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations in the UK), an accident is “a separate, identifiable, unintended incident, which causes physical injury. This specifically includes acts of non-consensual violence to people at work.

“Injuries themselves, [such as] ‘feeling a sharp twinge,’ are not accidents. There must be an identifiable external event that causes the injury, [such as] a falling object striking someone. Cumulative exposures to hazards, which eventually cause injury (e.g., repetitive lifting), are not classed as ‘accidents’ under RIDDOR.”

Whether an incident has happened in connection with or at work, it is classed as a workplace injury or accident.


What do the statistics on workplace injuries reveal?

The current statistics on workplace injuries offer a sobering glimpse into the realities faced by employees across various sectors. The numbers aren’t just data points; each figure represents personal stories of pain, resilience, and the pressing need for enhanced safety measures. The most common statistics in the U.S. highlight 4,764 workplace fatalities in 2020. Employees in transportation and material moving occupations and construction and extraction occupations accounted for nearly half of all fatal occupational injuries, representing 1,282 and 976 workplace deaths, respectively. It’s hardly surprising that, when employees were surveyed, their health and safety was determined to be of primary importance and key to achieving optimal productivity and efficiency within an organization.

Such statistics reveal that workplace injuries continue to be a significant concern, despite advancements in safety protocols. From strains caused by repetitive motions to more severe incidents such as falls, heat-related incidents, and equipment-related accidents, the range of injuries highlights the diverse risks present in different environments. Disturbingly, these statistics only further highlight the ripple effects of workplace injuries. Injuries sustained do not only encompass the physical pain but also the emotional and financial strain that must be considered on both the individual and their family.

It is evident that fostering a culture of rigorous safety training and ongoing risk assessment is paramount to addressing these issues head-on and protecting the organization and its most valuable assets, the employees.


Most common injuries on the job

In the U.S., slips, trips, and falls are the most common culprits behind workplace accidents. Often triggered by factors such as wet floors, cluttered walkways, or inadequate signage, it stands as a poignant reminder of the delicate balance between human mobility and the physical environment.

Across the Atlantic in the U.K., a variety of strains and sprains take center stage as the most frequent workplace injuries. These injuries often stem from repetitive motions or improper lifting techniques, painting a poignant picture of the toll workplace routines can take on the employee’s musculoskeletal system. In Australia, cuts, lacerations, and punctures are more prominent, often striking a chord in industries where sharp tools and machinery are integral to the work at hand. 

However, across these regions, and many more, heat-related injuries are becoming more prevalent. Research suggests that, by 2030, 2.2 percent of total working hours around the world will be lost due to high temperatures, equating to a productivity loss equivalent to 80 million full-time jobs. While this is a conservative estimate, there is no doubt that we will continue to see the number of heat-related injuries and accidents rise if more action is not taken as temperatures increase year-on-year around the world.

Collectively, these injuries not only highlight the need for proficient training and stringent safety procedures but the importance of fostering a vigilant safety culture that employees and employers are confidently a part of.


Most common causes of workplace injuries

Upon closer examination of the causes that lead to workplace injuries, fatigue appears to be a subtle but significant factor. In the U.S., diminished awareness and coordination as a result of fatigue is a significant but underrepresented trigger for the most common injuries of slips, trips, and falls. While it is important to ensure workplace surfaces and areas are in line with safety regulations and protocols, employees must be mentally equipped to navigate their workplace responsibilities to minimize the risk of injuries.

Similarly, strains and sprains in the U.K. often happen due to improper lifting techniques, emphasizing the need for ergonomic awareness and training. However, behind the movements, fatigue is a common contributing factor, minimizing the energy required to execute tasks effectively and with the right care. The pace of work can also challenge an employee’s ability to maintain focus and be alert, signaling the need to address and manage fatigue efficiently through adequate breaks and optimal work schedules, and acknowledging the significance of rest as a preventive measure against these common injuries.

Fatigue significantly impairs a person’s ability to safely operate and perform tasks in the workplace. It can lead to reduced alertness, slower reaction times, poor decision-making, and an increased risk of accidents. As such, it is crucial to address fatigue-related risks in the workplace when considering the complete approach to workplace health and safety.


The costs to employee wellbeing and business productivity

The toll of workplace injuries extends beyond the physical implications of the employee who is directly involved, impacting job satisfaction and mental health. While an employee tries to manage recovery, the incident also has implications on the wider business, contributing to diminished productivity, characterized by increased rates of absenteeism, reduced efficiency, and increased medical and legal costs of injuries.

The average cost of a medically consulted injury is $44,000 while the average cost for a heat-related injury or illness is estimated to be $79,081. Allocating resources (e.g., budget, time, people, training) to protect the well-being of employees is not only important to avoid losses linked to incidents or legal compliance, but these effective practices improve workplace culture, motivation, and productivity, helping organizations retain and attract quality candidates and reduce absenteeism. This, in turn, safeguards the future of the organization and its productivity.


What are the employer’s safety obligations?

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA) and its General Duty Clause underpin an employer’s obligations to prevent workplace injuries. Under these federal laws, employers are mandated to eliminate or reduce recognized hazards that are likely to cause serious harm or death, even if those hazards are not specifically addressed by existing regulations. This entails conducting regular assessments of workplace conditions, identifying potential risks, and implementing effective safety measures. Employers are entrusted with providing comprehensive training, equipping employees with the necessary knowledge and skills to navigate potential hazards, and ensuring access to appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) where necessary.

In the U.S., workplace safety requires commitment and dedication from the employers and organizations to uphold these obligations and act as custodians of their workforce’s well-being. This entails not only meeting legal obligations but also embracing a moral responsibility to create an atmosphere where employees can flourish without compromising their safety. By upholding these obligations, employers play a vital role in the effectiveness of workplace safety protocols, cultivating an environment where employees can thrive and businesses can prosper.


What injuries can staff claim for at work?

In the United States, employees can seek compensation for workplace injuries through established legal avenues.

Workers’ Compensation / the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) is the fundamental framework that provides benefits to employees injured on the job. Compensation includes wage replacement, payment for medical care, and, where necessary, medical and vocational rehabilitation assistance in returning to work and survivor benefits.

Personal injury claims may also arise if an employer’s negligence directly leads to an employee’s injury. These claims necessitate proving negligence and can encompass pain, suffering, and loss of income, beyond the scope of workers’ compensation benefits.


How to receive pay and benefits when unable to work

In the U.S., there are regulations that outline provisions to ensure that employees facing the challenge of being unable to work as a result of a workplace injury or accident receive necessary pay and benefits. Workers’ compensation programs are designed and administered by the states.

Employees are eligible for workers’ compensation from their first day of employment; however, Social Security Disability Insurance is also available and only paid to workers who have a substantial work history. Workers’ compensation provides benefits for both short-term and long-term disabilities and for partial as well as total disabilities. These benefits cover only disabilities arising out of and in the course of employment. In contrast, Social Security disability benefits are paid only to workers who have long-term impairments that preclude any gainful work, regardless of whether the disability arose on or off the job.


How can workplace injuries be prevented?

Robust training programs equip employees with the knowledge and skills to avoid potential hazards. Hazard assessments carried out regularly allow employers to identify and address risks before they can turn into accidents, fostering an environment where prevention is the best solution.

Strategic engineering and ergonomic design create effective safety measures to mitigate risks affecting machinery and work environments. PPE takes center stage, providing employees with a defensive barrier against potential harm. A culture of awareness and accountability filters throughout an organization when employees and employers collaboratively work together with diligence, reporting near misses and hazards and collectively refining safety protocols.


How can technology be used to mitigate workplace injuries?

In the modern landscape, technology plays a pivotal role in curbing workplace injuries and risks, offering an effective blend of innovation and safety solutions. Bodytrak® is a strong example of wearable technology that leverages multiple safety features to monitor physiological responses to workplace stressors and challenging environments. By providing precise, real-time data, Bodytrak empowers both employees and organizations to identify potential hazards swiftly and enables early intervention to prevent accidents before they happen.

The Bodytrak solution translates real-time data into actionable information, helping individuals and organisations gauge vulnerability to heat stress, fatigue levels and excessive exposure to noise to prioritise and manage interventions, such as breaks. This individualized data-driven approach contributes to more effective output, allowing employees to maintain their well-being while performing at their best. For organizations, Bodytrak’s insights provide the opportunity for refining processes, optimizing schedules and adapting work environments to reduce risks and enhance overall safety.

With a global resonance, Bodytrak extends its impact across diverse industries and geographies. From construction sites that demand heightened alertness to remote settings with their unique challenges, Bodytrak provides a versatile solution that fosters a safer work environment. As technology harmonizes with the pursuit of employee welfare, the stage is set for a progressive transformation in workplace safety, where innovation and risk mitigation converge.


Conclusion

We’ve highlighted many of the common workplace risks that employees encounter around the world. From examining prevalent injuries in various parts of the world to delving into employer obligations and avenues for compensation, this paints a vivid picture of the landscape that shapes workplace safety.

The role of employers and organizations in fostering a safe and secure environment for their workforce is paramount. Regulations in different regions lay the foundation for safeguarding employees, obligating employers to take proactive measures and implement preventive strategies. The evolution of wearable technology allows smart solutions, like Bodytrak, to seamlessly integrate into workplace safety, offering real-time data and empowering employees and organizations alike to make informed decisions that minimize risks.

Ultimately, the overarching message is the same: workplace safety is a collaborative effort between organisations, employees and innovative technology. By having a clear understanding of prevention, harnessing the power of data-driven insights and fostering a culture of vigilance, we can create a workplace where each individual’s well-being is protected and productivity flourishes.

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