Worker's compensation claims are a major influence in the workforce and in public policy. In fact, in 2011 alone, the U.S. Social Security Administration paid out approximately 60.2 billion dollars in benefits to active worker's compensation claims. However, even with all of that financial protection, workers that file claims typically face financial hardship as well as physical pain.
That's why the best way to handle a worker's compensation claim is to avoid one altogether. Here are the four most common workplace injuries resulting in worker's compensation claims and how to reduce your chances of experiencing them.
Overexertion in Lifting and Lowering
Overexertion occurs when you lift too much in a single lift or when you lift a lighter amount more times than you can safely handle. Not surprisingly, it is the single largest contributor to worker's compensation claims--making up 22% of the days missed from work in 2011. If your job requires you to move weights of over 20 pounds or to position heavy parcels or machinery, you're at risk for overexertion.
To avoid this injury, it's important to always work as a team when lifting large, heavy objects. Also, if your workplace doesn't supply back braces and lifting aids, you should consider purchasing some yourself. Most importantly, make sure to take frequent breaks. When the structure of your day doesn't allow for multiple breaks, try to divide the time spent lifting heavy objects with time spent doing other, lighter tasks.
Slip and Falls
Another common workplace injury is the traditional slip and fall. No one is immune to the danger of a slip and fall--anyone who is required to walk while at work is at risk. However, people in a service industry or in cold climates tend to have more of a risk than others.
The most important thing you can do to avoid slip and falls is to purchase a good pair of sturdy work shoes. Many folks sacrifice function for form when it comes to their footwear, which can dramatically increase your chance of losing your footing. You should take special care to observe wet floor signs and other hazard notifications as well, even when it's inconvenient to do so.
Repetitive Stress Injuries
The nature of the modern workplace is such that repetitive tasks are common. From continuous typing on a keyboard for communication and data entry purposes to identical movements on a production line, workers are often required to do the same thing over and over. Injuries from this type of movement accounted for 615,000 injury claims in 1993 alone.
Unfortunately, there are only two ways to prevent repetitive stress injuries. The first is to take frequent breaks when your job allows for this. Roll your wrists, stretch your back, and try to take bathroom breaks to incorporate walking. The other is to use ergonomically sound equipment. Specialized keyboards and tools can help ease the stress of repetitive motion when discomfort becomes a part of your work day.
This type of injury isn't something that most people consider. After all, violence isn't normally a component of the typical work environment. That said, the estimated number of folks that fell victim to non-fatal violence while at work was 572,000 in 2009.
The key to preventing workplace violence is to learn to avoid these types of situations. Travel in pairs or groups when heading to the parking garage at night. It's also important to trust your intuition. If you feel like a situation poses a threat or could escalate, don't hesitate to contact a supervisor or colleague immediately.
Worker's compensation insurance provides relief to victims who've been injured on the job. However, avoiding these injuries altogether is the best way to maintain both your physical health and your financial well-being. A little bit of awareness and planning can go a long way to helping you do just that--if you know what injuries to avoid. You can read more here about what compensation you may be entitled to if you are injured in the workplace.