Work-related injuries and illnesses tend to occur more often than many people realize. While work injuries are not always avoidable, it can be helpful to learn about the most common causes of these injuries so that you can take the proper precautions when possible. And in the unfortunate event that you end up suffering a work-related injury or illness, you must be educated on your legal rights to obtain benefits under California law.
California Attorney for Work-Related Injuries
Experienced workers’ compensation attorney Matthew Schondel knows what it takes to get injured workers in the state of California the workers’ compensation benefits that they deserve. If you have recently been injured at work or contracted a work-related illness, the passionate legal team at Kneisler and Schondel can help you get started with filing your workers’ compensation claim. To learn more about how we can help you pursue workers’ compensation benefits to help you pay for your medical bills and compensate you for lost wages for your time off work due to your injury, give us a call today to schedule a free consultation.
#1. Exposure to Harmful Substances or Environments
For the most recent year of available data (2020), exposure to harmful substances or environments was the most common cause of work-related injuries or illnesses, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In previous years, this category had been ranked the sixth most common cause, but it rose to the top of the list in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting workplace exposures leading to illness and injury.
#2. Manual Handling, Lifting, and Overexertion
The second most common group of work-related injuries includes the manual handling and lifting of items at work, as well as overexertion while completing work-related tasks. Lifting and manual handling refers to tasks performed on the job that require workers to lift, push, pull, carry, lower, or move objects. While these types of functions are often expected in any hard labor position, it is not uncommon for workers in office or retail work environments to also have to perform some of these tasks on a regular basis.
When manual handling or lifting tasks are not done correctly, or when a worker overexerts their body when doing one of these tasks, various work injuries can occur, including sprains, strains, hernias, herniated discs, and other injuries. Not surprisingly, many serious back, shoulder, and neck injuries happen at work as a result of these causes.
#3. Falls, Trips, and Slips
Falls, trips, and slips occurring in the workplace also comprise a large number of work-related injuries. According to 2020 data gathered by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the transportation, warehousing, and agriculture industries carry the highest risk of workers suffering work-related falls, trips, and slips.
The most frequent injuries that occur due to falls, trips, and slips include sprains, strains, muscle tears, and, occasionally, broken bones.
#4. Poorly Maintained or Faulty Equipment or Tools
When equipment and tools in the workplace are not properly maintained or are not kept in adequate working condition, substantial risks exist. When a malfunction or equipment failure occurs, it can cause a serious work accident with significant consequences for the injured worker.
Workplace injuries may happen due to outdated equipment which lacks modern safety features, failure to perform regular inspections or routine repairs or maintenance, normal wear, and tear to tools and equipment occurring over a long period of time, and also simply as a result of a component malfunction. Injuries resulting from poorly maintained or faulty equipment or tools can range from minor (such as small lacerations or cuts) to catastrophic (loss of a limb or even death).
#5. Motor Vehicle and Other Transportation Accidents
For traveling employees, and in certain other circumstances, motor vehicle and other forms of transportation accidents can also cause work injuries. Additionally, vehicle accidents in the workplace can also happen in a variety of settings beyond the roadways, such as warehouses, manufacturing facilities, and construction sites—where forklifts and trucks are used for transporting equipment, tools, and materials.
These types of collisions can result in serious injuries or even fatalities to drivers and nearby workers. Factors that may lead to vehicle and transportation accidents in the workplace include speeding, mechanical failure, poor visibility, operator error, or inadequate traffic controls.
While this category of work-related injury causes is ranked number five on this list of top ten overall causes of workplace injuries and illnesses for the most recent year of data available, it is important to note that this category was actually the leading cause of fatal work-related injuries for 2021. Therefore, just because a category is near the top of this list of most common causes for work-related injuries—that does not necessarily mean that the most severe and debilitating injuries fall within that category.
#6. Violence or Other Injuries by People or Animals
Workplace violence includes any act or threat of physical violence, intimidation, or harassment that occurs at work. Some of the factors that can contribute to violence in the workplace include high-stress work environments, substance abuse, lack of adequate conflict resolution training, and inadequate security measures.
Disputes between coworkers or personal conflicts escalate to physical altercations, which can result in not just physical harm—but also emotional and psychological consequences for the victims. This can be true for witnesses to the violence, as well.
However, when it comes to filing workers’ compensation claims for injuries caused by workplace violence, certain conditions must be met in order for the injured worker to have a successful claim in California. First, the violent incident causing the injury must have been connected to their employment or job duties in some way. In addition, the injured worker seeking benefits must not have been the aggressor in the situation, or they may be found to be ineligible for workers’ compensation benefits for their injury.
#7. Poor Ergonomics
Injuries in the workplace are also commonly caused by poor ergonomics. This term refers to conditions in a workplace that do not support the physical well-being of employees. Over time, poor ergonomics can lead to discomfort, strain, and injury. Ergonomics focuses on creating workspaces, equipment, and tasks that are designed to fit the abilities and needs of employees using that workplace.
When a workspace has inadequate ergonomics for the employees working there, it can contribute to multiple musculoskeletal disorders. These disorders can impact a worker’s muscles, tendons, nerves, joints, and other soft tissues of the body. Often, these types of injuries develop over a significant period of time and are caused by repetitive motions or repetitive use of the injured part of the body.
Any worker who performs the same task or motion repeatedly as part of their job duties—such as lifting, typing, or the use of some tools—can cause strain, wear, and tear on the body parts in use. Over time, these workers can develop conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, bursitis, or tendinitis.
Additionally, workers who routinely complete tasks that require the use of excessive force, like applying pressure while using certain tools and lifting heavy objects, are at risk of developing muscle sprains, strains, and herniated discs. Work injuries that develop over a longer period of time, such as repetitive use injuries like those described above, can still result in successful workers’ compensation claims.
#8. Inadequate Training
Inadequate training is also a common cause of many work-related injuries. This is one area in which many employers would stand to benefit from making improvements to their current systems. Their employees would also benefit by suffering fewer work injuries in the long run.
When workers do not receive adequate training for their job duties and tasks, they may be unaware of necessary safety procedures, precautions, and techniques that they should be using in order to perform their jobs safely. Without appropriate training, some of the unnecessary increased risks in the workplace include:
- Unfamiliarity with machinery and equipment, leading to misuse and mishandling;
- Unsafe work practices, such as improper lifting techniques and bypassing safety procedures;
- Incorrect or inefficient use of personal protective equipment (PPE), making those workers and others around them more vulnerable to hazardous substances, chemicals, or unsafe conditions;
- Inadequate emergency response, leads to further exacerbation of an incident, thereby increasing the risk of further injury, damage, and fatalities.
#9. Human Error
Human error is another significant cause of workplace accidents. Many different factors can contribute to work injuries caused by human error. Some examples of human errors that can lead to work-related injuries include:
- Distraction or inattention to surroundings or the task at hand;
- Failure to properly follow safety procedures or take necessary precautions;
- Poor judgment—such as taking shortcuts in an effort to save time or money, but creating a riskier work environment in the process;
- Lack of experience or training—without adequate experience or training, workers might make more mistakes or take unnecessary risks, leading to workplace injuries that could have been prevented.
#10. Electrical Hazards
Finally, electrical hazards are also a common cause of work-related injuries. These types of hazards at work can lead to major accidents, such as fires, explosions, and electrocutions. Electrical hazards can stem from the use of damaged equipment or tools, faulty wiring, or other factors.
Work-Related Injuries or Illnesses in California
If you or a loved one has been injured in a California work accident or suffered from a work-related illness, regardless of the cause, contact attorney Matthew Schondel at Kneisler and Schondel today. Our office can help you get started with filing your claim for workers’ compensation benefits as soon as possible so that you can move forward with your life and get back on your feet.