Workers’ compensation is an insurance program designed to pay for treatment and recovery for injuries that happen in the workplace. It's an important safety net for workers, kicking in as soon as an injury occurs and covering doctor visits, diagnostic testing, hospital stays, physical therapy, time away from work, and more. While this protection offers peace of mind to workers, it's always better to avoid being injured in the first place.
Leading Causes of Workplace Injury
Although some workplaces are more hazardous than others, anyone can be injured on the job. The most common injuries sustained across all industries, according to the nation’s largest workers’ comp insurance provider, are sprains and strains.
A recent study by Travelers', an insurance company, revealed the following as the most common injuries:
- Sprains and strains. These injuries topped the list for all industries and almost all sizes of business, averaging 30 percent of all reported workplace injuries.
- Cuts or punctures. At 19 percent, this injury isn't even a close second to sprains and strains, but does top the list for small businesses.
- Contusions. Accounting for 12 percent of workplace injuries, bruising caused by a slip and fall or colliding with an object can happen on any job.
- Fractures. While fractures can be very serious injuries, they're not as common as less severe injuries, accounting for about 5 percent of injuries across all industries.
Within the category of sprains and strains are repetitive motion injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow. These injuries occur in every workplace, from offices to factories, and cost an average of 57 missed work days and millions of dollars a year.
Symptoms and Risk Factors for Overuse Injuries
Overuse injuries are often caused by repetitive hand movements such as typing or assembly line work, but any part of the body can be affected. In an overuse injury, the tendons and muscles of the fingers, hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, back, and neck can be affected. Symptoms vary, making overuse a difficult injury to diagnose and treat.
Common symptoms may include:
- Muscle weakness
- Restricted mobility of the affected joint
Any worker who performs the same task repeatedly throughout the day is at risk for developing an overuse injury, but certain environmental factors can increase a worker’s chances of suffering this kind of injury, including the following:
- Furniture, tools, or equipment that don’t conform comfortably to the body
- Workstations that are too high, too low, or too far from the body
- Machinery that operates too quickly for user comfort, such as speedy conveyor belts that force the worker to move fast
- Workspace design that requires repeated bending, stretching, or twisting
- Tight deadlines that prevent workers from taking sufficient breaks
- Repetitive manual tasks
Workers are entitled to safe workspaces and should speak up about conditions that put them at risk of being injured. Employers will enjoy significant cost savings in the long run when their employees are provided with safe, ergonomic work stations.
Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim for a Repetitive Use Injury
Because an overuse injury isn't easily diagnosed, and there isn't a definitive diagnostic test that can confirm the injury, filing a workers’ comp claim for it may be difficult. These injuries are considered soft tissue injuries, meaning they affect the tendons and muscles rather than bones and joints, so they don't show up on x-rays or MRIs. Because of this, an employee may have his workers’ comp claim denied.
You don’t want to make mistakes that could jeopardize your claim. If you have suffered a repetitive use injury at work, take the following steps to strengthen your claim:
- See a doctor when you first notice symptoms.
- File a work injury report with your employer.
- Follow your doctor’s orders regarding treatment.
- Make notes about the symptoms you're experiencing, including pain and physical limitations.
- Work with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.
Have You Been Injured On The Job?
If you've been hurt at work on the job in Kansas City you need to speak with an experienced workers' compensation attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816.471.5111 to schedule your free consultation.