Workplace injuries affect nearly 3 million workers in the United States every year. Approximately half of the workers that are injured on the job are incapacitated in a way that prevents the worker from immediately returning to work at the same levels of productiveness. Workplace injuries can affect quality of life, and can even be fatal in some cases.
Types of Workplace Injuries
Injuries which are sustained can vary greatly depending on the specific occupation. Some workplace injuries occur suddenly, as in traffic accidents, which are the most commonly reported injury. Other workplace injuries develop over time, such as repetitive stress injuries or hearing loss due to loud surroundings. Other common workplace injuries include slips and falls and bodily harm from tool malfunctions or mishandling. Injuries should be reported to the employer as soon as possible.
Over 4,000 workers die from workplace injuries every year in the United States. Construction work is one of the most hazardous types of employment, accounting for about 20 percent of work-related deaths per year. Other hazardous jobs that carry a high rate of fatality include commercial fishing, farming, and electrical repair and installation.
Workplace Injuries Impact
Workplace injuries are detrimental to the individual that is injured, the workplace, and society. The individual may suffer pain and may lose the ability to perform job and daily tasks. The individual may also lose compensation, requiring supplemental income from workers’ compensation or social security disability. When the individual loses the ability to perform job tasks and daily tasks, it impairs the productiveness of the workplace, at least temporarily. Society is also impacted as the individual must receive assistance and is no longer as productive.
Occupational Injury Causes
Most workplace injuries are caused by a failure of the employer or the employee to follow proper safety procedures and standards. Employees that are younger may be more prone to errors in safety procedures due to a lack of experience and a tendency towards jobs that carry higher risks of injury. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately twice as many workers that were younger than 25 received emergency care between 1998 and 2007 as those that were 25 or older.
If a workplace is responsible for failing to adhere to a safety law that may result in workplace injuries, the workplace may be fined or face operational penalties. If a worker is injured due to a safety violation, the employee may be able to seek financial compensation from the workplace or the individual responsible for the violation. If an employee is responsible for a safety violation which results in injury, the employee may face penalties in some cases.
Workplace Injury Prevention
Since younger workers are at a higher risk for workplace injury, The U.S. Public Health Service has an objective to reduce the number of people between the ages of 15 and 19 years of age that sustain workplace injuries requiring medical care by 10 percent by the year 2020. Specific objectives are often key in reducing the occurrence of workplace injuries. Programs to implement safety procedures and increase workers’ awareness of common hazards are also very helpful in reducing the number and severity of workplace injuries.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, commonly known as OSHA, is the organization which is responsible for enforcing safety laws within workplaces in the United States. OSHA representatives are required to inspect businesses of all types and provide advice and guidelines for safety. If an employer has been coached about procedures or conditions which are unsafe and fails to correct the hazard, the employer may face disciplinary action.
Employers may be able to put rules in place which penalize workers if the worker intentionally ignores safety procedures. However, employers are not allowed to put programs in place which reward employees for failure to report workplace injuries. Programs that reward employees for no lost time from work or a number of days without an accident are considered to “blame the worker” and are in violation of the whistleblower provision of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
In order to avoid a scenario in which a workplace program violates safety laws, safety rules must:
- Be clearly outlined
- Be included as part of employee training
- Be monitored by the employer to ensure employee compliance
- Be clear disciplinary action taken when an employee violates the rule
“Benefits for People with Disabilities.” Social Security. Social Security Administration, n.d. Web. 23 Mar 2014. <http://www.ssa.gov/disability/>
“Workers’ Compensation.” United States Department of Labor. U.S. Department of Labor, n.d. Web. 23 Mar 2014. <http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/workcomp/>
“Young Worker Safety and Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13 Nov 2013. Web. 23 Mar 2014. <http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/youth/>