Workplace injuries are a danger that every employer and employee needs to take seriously. If that’s done, workers’ compensation cases can be kept to a minimum.
Getting hurt on the job is a far more common experience than many people realize. Nearly three million Americans (2.9 million to be exact) suffered a nonfatal injury at work in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Standards.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that workplace injuries are often very easy to prevent. The rate of injuries on the job in the United States was three cases per 100 or 3%; which means most employers succeed in creating an injury-free workplace.
Planning is the Key to Injury Prevention
The key to successful injury prevention is to have a plan and to implement it properly. Proper implementation means that everybody in the workplace is aware of the plan, understands it and follows it. Unfortunately, many employers don’t have a plan in place.
Fortunately, there are many online resources where employers can draw up an injury prevention and avoidance plan for your workplace. It’s a shame more employers don’t take advantage of it. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website has many great examples of such plans. It also provides a vast amount of background information, all which is free.
Even though you’re probably not an employer, knowing some of the basic concepts of injury avoidance can help you avoid a Georgia workers’ compensation claim.
Basic Injury Avoidance Techniques
To avoid injuries, you should become familiar with two strategies. These strategies are hazard identification and hazard assessment; any injury avoidance plan begins with them.
Hazard identification means looking around and spotting anything that might cause an injury. For example, a ladder that somebody might fall off from or a wet floor that might lead to a slip and fall.
Hazard assessment means asking yourself: how likely is it that somebody will actually get hurt by that? By using assessment you can identify those hazards most likely to cause injuries and deal with them first. Even though it’s not your responsibility, if you see a potential hazard, report it to your supervisor if possible.
Some Common Workplace Hazards
Any workplace in Georgia, from Brunswick and Valdosta to Atlanta, from factories to offices, can have hazards which can cause injuries. Fortunately these hazards can be mitigated in almost any workplace.
Common workplace hazards that everybody should be aware of include:
- Slip and fall. This includes wet floors, loose carpeting or tiles, items somebody can slip over (such as electrical cords), and in the winter time, ice. Slip and fall is a danger that can happen anywhere. One surprising place to pay close attention to is the break room where spills are common.
- Walkway hazards. Every walkway should be clear with nothing somebody can trip over. This includes debris such as garbage, spills, loose tiles or carpet and damaged flooring. Outside, potholes and damaged sidewalks can cause injury. This could also count as a workers’ compensation claim if you’re at work on your employer’s property.
- Stairs. Believe it or not this can be one of the most dangerous places at work. Stairs need to be clean and free of clutter. There should be no loose carpeting or treads. Look for slippery conditions such as water on the stairs. By the way, OSHA recommends that treads cover the entire step and that stairways or ramps that rise more than 30 inches have at least one handrail.
- Ladders. OSHA estimates that 36 people die and another 24,882 are injured because of ladder accidents each year. Check every ladder before use; make sure it is clean, if it is not, make sure it gets cleaned before use. Look for damage and report any ladder that is damaged or defective. The ladder should be long enough to reach the work area and you should never use a metal ladder around electrical wires or devices because of the danger of shock.
- Electrical Safety. Check all electrical cords and cables and report any that are the least bit frayed or damaged. No metal scaffolding or ladders should be used within 10 feet of live electrical wires. All extension cords should meet OSHA guidelines. If not, they shouldn’t be used.
- Power Tools. Power tools should be in good condition and working properly. Report any power tools that are damaged or defective as soon as you notice it.
- Scaffolding and shelving. Make sure that these are secure and on sound footing. Report scaffolds and shelves that are overloaded. Also report anything that is sticking out or likely to fall.
- If you use a forklift, make sure you are following the OSHA guidelines for it.
Hazard Communication and Hazardous Substances
If any toxic, flammable, corrosive, explosive or otherwise dangerous chemical or material is used at your workplace, OSHA requires that your employer take extra precautions.
Extra injury avoidance steps your employer should take to deal with hazardous substances include:
- Every container of a hazardous substance must be properly labeled so it is easily identifiable.
- There must be a list of all hazardous substances used in the workplace that is easily accessible. This is needed for firefighters, paramedics and other first responders.
- OSHA requires that you have Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for all hazardous substances available and promptly displayed.
- All employees should be properly trained in dealing with hazardous substances.
- Containers of hazardous substances should be checked for leaks, cracks and improper sealing or storage on a regular basis.
- Security measures around hazardous substances such as door locks should be checked on a regular basis to make sure they are secure.
Safety Equipment and Injury Avoidance
Simply having safety equipment on site will not automatically prevent injuries. Such equipment has to be used properly in order to keep people safe. In order to avoid a work injury and a Georgia Workers’ Compensation claim, your employer should:
- Make sure that safety equipment is available.
- Check all safety equipment to make sure that it is working properly and in good condition.
- Make sure that everybody is using safety equipment needed for their jobs. That means actually wearing hardhats, gloves, pads, goggles, etc.
- Check safety equipment that is not used on a regular basis such as first aid kits, fire extinguishers, etc. to make sure it is in working order.
Other Sources of Injuries on the Job
Accidents are not the only source of injuries on the job. Injuries from strains and repetitive motion can be just as debilitating as those from a fall.
There are some steps you can take to reduce the risk of such injuries. These steps include:
- If heavy lifting is required at your workplace, make sure you’re using the proper lifting technique. WebMD does a great job of outlining the technique here.
- Make sure that you are provided adequate equipment for tasks such as moving heavy objects. For example, use a dolly, carts or a forklift (if trained) instead of lugging heavy boxes around.
- Make sure you only perform tasks you are physically capable of performing. If you have doubts about your physical capacity to safely perform a task, don’t attempt it.
- If you do a lot of typing, carpal tunnel syndrome can be prevented with hand exercises, ergonomic keyboards and the use of gel keyboard pads.
- If you sit a lot for your job, check your chair to see if it is damaged or defective. Report a broken chair as soon as you observe it.
- Make sure you have an ergonomic chair.
- Proper exercise can help prevent accidents. Persons who sit a lot should get up and move around at least once every half an hour.
- Switching to standing computer desks or workstations can sometimes prevent accidents because it puts less pressure on the back. Standing workers are also more likely to move than those sitting down.
Avoiding injuries at work is a full time job and it is everybody’s job. Remember, however, when injuries happen, regardless of who is at fault or even when nobody is at fault, you still could be eligible for a workers’ compensation claim that includes money and benefits. If you’re hurt at work and need representation, call the Law Office Of Susan Mager. Together, we can help you receive the justice that you deserve.