Back Injuries on the Job and Workers’ Compensation Claims
How often have you heard about a worker in Naperville who hurts his or her back at work? According to a fact sheet from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), back injuries are among the most common injuries for workers’ compensation claims, and they can happen in a variety of industries. Indeed, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that “more than one million workers suffer back injuries on the job each year, and back injuries account for one of every five workplace injuries or illnesses.” To put that number another way, back injuries account for around 20 percent of all reported workplace injuries or illnesses. In addition, about 25 percent of all workers’ compensation claims involve a back injury. If you hurt your back at work, you may be eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim and should reach out to a Naperville workers’ compensation lawyer to discuss your case.
What Causes Back Injuries at Work?
A fact sheet from the Mayo Clinic emphasizes that back pain at work can take many different forms in that it can be “dull and achy or sharp and stabbing,” depending upon how the injury occurs. Some jobs that seem unlikely to cause a back injury—such as office work that requires sitting at a desk—can actually worsen an already existing back injury, and that might be enough reason to consider filing a workers’ compensation claim. What causes most back injuries at work? It is hard to specify how most back injuries happen on the job since they occur in so many different fields, from jobs in nursing to those in the construction industry. However, the Mayo Clinic identifies several factors that tend to contribute to back pain most often at work:
- Exerting force on your back (which can happen when you lift or move heavy objects);
- Repeating movements that can result in twisting or rotating your spine; and
- Inactivity at a desk job without proper back support.
As you can see, there are several different types of actions—or inactions, as the case may be—that can lead to a back injury at work. However, according to the OSHA fact sheet, the most common injuries that resulted in workers’ compensation claims happened while an employee was lifting a heavy object (about 75 percent), and a majority of those injuries affected the lower back (about 80 percent).
Preventing Back Injuries on the Job
What can employees do to help avoid a serious back injury at work? First, it is important to recognize that employers have a duty to their workers to help prevent back injuries. OSHA recommends that employers take steps to adjust the heights of shelves with heavy materials so that employees are not lifting below the knee (which is more hazardous), and using pneumatic lifts and conveyors. At the same time, employees can also help to prevent injuries by taking the following steps recommended by the Mayo Clinic:
- Pay attention to your posture and adjust for poor posture when you are sitting or standing;
- Always lift heavy objects with your legs;
- Do not twist your body when you lift;
- Use lifting devices whenever possible; and
- Pay attention to your body.
Written By: Casey Woodruff, Chicago Workers' Compensation Lawyer