Work-related accidents are not always preventable, but there are some common practices and things to be aware of so that over time we can protect ourselves on the job.
The first category of injuries that can be prevented (for the most part) is back injuries. Common back injuries include spinal disc rupture, nerve compression, and muscle spasms. These pains are caused by activities like lifting, pushing, and pulling items. Other causes could also be static sitting or standing for long periods, and slipping, tripping, or falling. However, there are ways to avoid these hazards! Let’s start with the importance of knowing your body, knowing your physical limits, and not overexerting yourself. Ask for help with a physical task when you need it. If a movement does not feel right or causes pain, do not keep compromising your body by trying to push through the pain, thinking it will be okay. Seek assistance over injury; especially with awkward or very heavy loads that you must carry.
Also, pay attention to your surroundings. Keep an eye out for hazardous situations or conditions. For back injuries and especially slipping, tripping, and falling, if you believe there is something in your office or work environment that could compromise someone else or yourself report it immediately. Such hazards could include leaks, exposed wires, or even cluttered areas! You can never be too careful, and you would not want to be the person that did not speak up.
Also be aware of your own physical position while working. If your job has you in a static position for a long period of time, try to take periodic short breaks to walk around and stretch your legs, neck, and back. This will help avoid stiff, aching muscles and repetitive motion damage. A great idea is to identify a partner and have them do a lap around the office with you or take stretch breaks together. Follow a few exercises that you can find online or receive from your doctor or chiropractor. (Offices that have put this into practice have been proven to be more productive on a daily basis.)
Another common type of injury that can often be prevented is upper limb injuries. Mainly these types of injuries affect the hands including tendon and nerve disorders. Repetitive motion, low temperatures, and static positions are all causes of tissue damage, inflammation, and stress. This is not just in office jobs but includes working with tools, cars, or machinery — anything that one must grip or use continuous motion and force to do. For example, massage therapists can suffer tendonitis and carpal tunnel injury from the forces repetitive motion involved with giving a message.
In this type of work, you want to do exercises that are the opposite of the gripping or continuous motions you perform. Move your limbs and muscles in the other direction from your normal procedure. Also, try and modify or adjust the equipment to a more comfortable position or if possible, change positions of your equipment. Padding, gloves, wrist wrests – all are examples of preventive equipment you can utilize. If seated all day, try working from a standing position for an hour or two a day.
Unfortunately, even with preventive measures, you may still become injured. If you are the victim of a sudden injury at work, try to stay as calm as possible, because there are steps and programs in place that will help you. The first thing that you should do is to tell your immediate supervisor as soon as you can. If you need to leave for treatment or medical help due to your injury being an emergency, then have someone else find and tell your supervisor. Never delay treatment.
When you are able, write down what happened, and if possible, ask witnesses to write down what they saw or heard. Your employer should have a Worker’s Compensation guide – literature that you have already been given or will be given upon request. You will need to physically call the Worker’s Compensation phone number provided to you by your employer. (They are legally required to give you this information.) You will then be able to get treatment for what happened and seek opinions and options of the best plan for your injury. It is also recommended at this stage to seek advice from a personal injury attorney, as they are knowledgeable about workers compensation claims and can assist further with protocol and the legal side of the matter.
It is estimated that more than 50% of accidents can be avoided if someone speaks up and brings any concerns to a manager or employer. By being safety-minded and aware, and taking preventive measures, you make the workplace safer, and decrease the chance of injury for yourself and your coworkers.