What Should Workers Know about Back Injuries on the Job?July 13, 2021
A back injury may not appear to be a major problem when a person feels that first twinge or pulled muscle in their back. However, these injuries can be quite serious and severe. They can lead to long-term problems associated with posture and mobility throughout the day.
Since the back is composed of muscles that are there to keep a person standing upright all the time, if they are not working properly, they could prohibit a person from standing up straight. Another major part of the back is the spinal cord. It sends signals from the brain to the body. When it sustains damage, it can cause problems with other parts of the body, including, but not limited to, paralysis.
Back injuries can occur almost anywhere, but they mostly occur at work. Under these circumstances, a victim is covered by their employer’s Workers’ Compensation insurance. If the company is failing to give an employee access to this benefit, they will need to reach out to a Workers’ Compensation lawyer, who can help them obtain the financing they require.
How Common are Back Injuries?
Back injuries can be a dangerous and debilitating. They make up a significant percentage of injuries that workers sustain. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than one million workers suffer back injuries, which accounts for 20 percent of all injuries and illnesses in the workplace. It is responsible for the second most days off work, with the common cold being the number one reason.
There are no specific guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), although all employees are told how to properly lift large objects to prevent back injuries. The agency said it will not file enforcement actions against those companies that have instituted effective ergonomic programs or are trying to reduce those circumstances that can cause workers to sustain sprains and strains.
Ergonomics has become an important aspect for employers who are trying to protect their employees from accidents and the long-term damage that can occur to their bodies. Ergonomics is the science of designing the job, equipment, and workspace to fit the worker. Back safety is at the core of a good ergonomics program.
What are Common Types of Work-Related Back Injuries?
Back injuries can occur while a worker is doing a variety of activities, from highly strenuous to minimal. Not all injuries take place immediately, as there are those that develop over time. The two most common types of injuries are strains and sprains. A strain is an overused or overstretched muscle, while a sprain occurs when ligaments tear because of sudden movements. Other back injuries are as follows:
- Lower back strains and sprains: These are common around the workplace regardless of the type of work involved. Individuals who must sit or stand for extended periods may start to develop pain in their lower back. Other employees who are active could experience a sprain. In either case, the injuries are minor and are usually treated with over-the-counter medication.
- Bulging, herniated, and slipped disks: Between the vertebra bone lies a small soft disk, which serves as a shock absorber for the spine. When one of these gets jostled out of place, it could cause significant pain to the person.
- Pinched nerves: When those disks push up against a nerve, it can be excruciatingly painful. This type of injury will affect the neck, back, and legs.
- Fractured vertebrae: These can occur from a traumatic event such as an accident with a heavy machine or a motor vehicle accident. They require significant medical care, and a full recovery is not always guaranteed.
- Degenerative disk disease: With age, the body starts to deteriorate, including the disks in the back. An injury could occur at work that exacerbates an already debilitating situation or intensify it.
- Back fractures: When an employee falls from a great distance, they can injure parts of their back and cause spinal fractures. The injury could prevent a person from walking properly, among other problems.
- Anterior cord syndrome: When the electrical signals sent from the brain to the rest of the body are suddenly cut off, this is anterior cord syndrome and is a serious back injury. It means a loss of sensation and mobility.
When a person sustains a back injury at work, it is important that they seek medical treatment as soon as possible. If they are planning to take advantage of Workers’ Compensation, they should go to the doctor that the company approves to get checked out.
What are Common Causes of Back Injuries at Work?
Back injuries can be a common occurrence at work, and as such employers take additional precautions to prevent them. There are a few common situations that arise in a warehouse or office that can lead to these injuries. The common causes of back injuries include the following:
- Insufficient training: Although everyone may believe they know how to properly lift a heavy object, that is not always the case. There are proper ways to do it that will not put additional pressure on the back. If a person does not participate in training or fails to pay attention, they could open themselves up to additional injuries.
- Improper lifting technique: While a person may receive training when they start working at a company, over time those lessons may fade away and be replaced by other techniques that might be less safe. A company needs to consistently reinforce the proper methods and ensure workers are always using correct lifting styles to avoid injuries.
- Failing to identify risk: As an employee continues to work at a company and consistently lifts items, even when they continue to follow the proper techniques, they may become accustomed to the routine. Given the monotony of the job, they may start to forget the legitimate risks involved and become complacent. By failing to recognize the risk, they fail to properly address the situation. They require routine reminders about the dangers they are putting themselves in on a regular basis.
- Frustration and rushing: Human emotion can play a factor in increasing the chances of an accident. If a worker gets behind on their work, they might feel the need to rush to complete it on time. When this happens, they can become careless and not use proper techniques. In addition, a worker could also be frustrated in general with something going on at work or home, which could lead them to follow safety protocols. In these situations, a worker needs to step back, take a breath, and relax before continuing the job.
An employer’s responsibility is to educate their employees about how to properly handle large heavy objects around work. This responsibility does not end on the first day. Employers must continue to drive that message home to employees and reiterate the reasons why the safety message is so important.
Are Certain Professions More Prone to Back Injuries?
There are certain professions that have a higher chance of sustaining a back injury because of the nature of the work. In most cases, these workers are either lifting heavy objects or remaining in a certain position for long periods. These professions include the following occupations:
- Movers, who lift heavy objects into trucks
- Construction workers
- Police officers
- Nurses and doctors
- Office workers who have poor quality and poorly designed chairs that cause back pain
Will Workers’ Compensation Cover My Injury?
Workers who were injured at work or executing a function of their job will be covered under Workers’ Compensation. On an injury being reported, an employer will direct the victim to a doctor that the company has pre-selected who will provide a proper diagnosis for the injury. The doctor will then prescribe treatment and any other therapy required for a recovery.
Workers’ Compensation will cover all medical expenses incurred by the victim from their injuries. It is important for that worker to keep their receipts and doctor’s notes. Workers’ Compensation will also cover most of an employee’s salary until the doctor clears them to return to work. Since the insurance is no-fault, the person accepting the Workers’ Compensation payments is prohibited from suing the company over the accident. They are free to file a lawsuit against a third party such as a machine manufacturer if they are liable for the accident.
To eliminate any obstacles in obtaining Workers’ Compensation, there are several steps a person should take immediately following an accident. Those steps include the following:
- Seek medical attention: If the injury is severe enough, a victim should see a doctor right away. Even if it is a minor injury, a doctor should check it out.
- Report the accident: This should take place as soon as possible. If a person needs to go to the hospital after the accident, they should return to work as soon as possible or have a co-worker report the accident. This will initiate the Workers’ Compensation process.
- Gather evidence: If possible, a victim should gather evidence about the accident, including pictures of the scene and the circumstances that led to the accident. They should also obtain a copy of their timecard to prove that they were at work and on duty at the time of the accident.
- Speak to witnesses: Victims should also speak with those co-workers who might have witnessed the accident and obtain the names and contact information for a future interview.
After an accident, a worker may find that their company may be reluctant to pay for what the employee is entitled, or the insurance company may attempt to offer a settlement. Before agreeing to anything, a victim should speak with a Workers’ Compensation lawyer to guarantee that their interests are represented.
Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Assist Clients Who Injure Their Back at Work
If you injure your back in a workplace accident and are having trouble obtaining your entitled Workers’ Compensation benefits, the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton will help you get you the benefits you deserve. We will confront your employer or their insurance to guarantee they cover your expenses. Call us at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online today to schedule a free consultation.
Located in Baltimore, we serve clients throughout Maryland.