Over the past few decades, ergonomics has become a commonplace term. In workplace settings, the principles of ergonomics help designers create furnishings and machines that improve efficiency and lower the chance of worker injury from repetitive stress. Many employers base workflow protocols on ergonomics to reduce the chance of their employees getting hurt and, as a result, filing Workers’ Compensation claims.
However, even at the most progressive businesses, ergonomics-related injuries can and do happen. Several types of ergonomic injuries are quite common, especially to workers in very physical jobs. Below are some of the most frequently reported ergonomics-linked accidents and injuries as reported on Workers’ Compensation claims.
Twisting. Turning. Shifting. These actions can cause acute back pain, as in the case of pinched nerves. However, they can also cause chronic back pain that keeps getting worse year after year.
Back pain is not just a fleeting problem among workers. It can be quite costly to address, with treatments ranging from surgery to ongoing physical therapy. Many workers who have been diagnosed with back pain require medical attention that can lead to expensive treatment.
Fortunately, Workers’ Compensation insurance is available to employees whose back pain is directly related to their occupations. The insurance offsets the cost of all treatments related to the workplace injury.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Not all Workers’ Compensation injuries involve major muscle groups or areas related to the spine or vertebrae. Carpal tunnel syndrome is an example. This issue typically occurs among employees who work on computers or with their hands.
Over time, the soft tissues of one or both hands become inflamed. The inflammation becomes progressively harder to control. Eventually, it can lead to constant pain that does not go away, even with over-the-counter medicines.
Resolving carpal tunnel syndrome can require months of trial and error. Some injured employees opt for surgery, if recommended by their treating doctors. Again, Workers’ Compensation can pay for any carpal tunnel syndrome linked to poor on-the-job ergonomics.
Workers engaged in a lot of physical motion, such as lifting or moving objects, rely on their shoulders. However, the shoulder joint can handle only so much wear and tear. Therefore, shoulder injuries like rotator cuff problems are often seen among workers in places such as manufacturing plants and industrial warehouses.
Shoulder injuries can take a lot of time to heal. During the interim, workers may have to change their duties to accommodate a temporary disability. Some workers may need to take a leave from their job to give the shoulder a rest.
Again, getting a proper diagnosis for a shoulder injury is essential. So, too, is making a claim immediately for Workers’ Compensation. Team members who need medical attention for sudden or nagging shoulder pain deserve to get help promptly to avoid long-term problems.
The tendons run throughout the body. Like all soft tissues, they can be sprained, strained, and even torn. Tendinitis refers to the inflammation of tendons. Depending on the severity of tendinitis, it can make movements extremely painful.
In most cases, tendinitis is a treatable, recoverable condition. Nevertheless, it takes time and patience to heal tendons. It can also take money to pay for tendinitis treatment, which averages around $30,000 per injured worker according to statistics.
To help pay for medical care, injured workers should submit a Workers’ Compensation claim as soon as possible after being diagnosed with tendinitis. It is important for all injured workers to alert their employers of their injury and intent to file for Workers’ Compensation within two weeks of any incident.
Most people know that they should lift from their legs. However, constant lifting and shifting put tremendous strain on the knee joint. This can end up causing degenerative or acute problems, including the wearing down of the cartilage in the knee.
Knee issues can happen to workers of all ages, including those who are very young or just starting out on the job. The key to resolving knee tears, strains, and sprains is to get a diagnosis from a specialist as soon as possible. A specialist can use diagnostics such as MRIs and X-rays to determine the cause of the problem and make suggestions to fix the issue.
Physical and occupational therapy is common with knee problems. Data suggests that most knee injuries end up costing no less than about $10,000 per incident in direct medical costs. This figure does not include any indirect costs, such as having to stop work for a period.
Preventing Ergonomic Injuries
What is the best way to avoid dealing with the most common types of ergonomic injuries? Ideally, workers should implement habits that help their bodies adjust to working conditions:
- Take frequent breaks. Stopping and stretching for a few minutes every hour can help the body readjust and avoid overuse problems. Some companies remind their workers to stretch routinely over the course of the day.
- Use proper bending and lifting techniques. Employees should always maintain proper posture when moving anything or performing their jobs. Taking a few moments to reposition before lifting something heavy can mean the difference between feeling great or having to submit a Workers’ Compensation claim because of an ergonomics injury.
- Follow workflow protocols. Trying to do too much too quickly can be physically risky and lead to workplace injuries and accidents. Team members should regularly review protocols to make sure they are not skipping important steps. Team leaders may want to institute routine meetings to remind workers of ways to avoid body stress and strain.
- Let machines do the work. Technological equipment, such as forklifts and stocking robots, can take the brunt of some physical work. Employees should not be hesitant to allow machines to take over when needed.
What to Do in Case of a Suspected Ergonomic Injury
Workers who believe that they have suffered a work-related ergonomic injury should take a few key steps. First, they should talk to a supervisor or human resources person to let them know they will be getting treatment.
Second, they should get emergency medical care or schedule an appointment with their primary care doctor or a specialist. Finally, they should be ready to submit a Workers’ Compensation claim if their suspected ergonomic injury is substantiated by a treating doctor.
Workers whose Workers’ Compensation claims are denied, or who believe their employer might fight a Workers’ Compensation claim, may want to speak with a Workers’ Compensation lawyer. Lawyers who practice in the Workers’ Compensation field can help injured employees determine the best course of action to get fair compensation.
Mount Laurel Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Kotlar, Hernandez & Cohen, LLC Help Employees Suffering from Ergonomic Injuries
If you were hurt on the job and your Workers’ Compensation claim was denied, reach out to the Mount Laurel Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Kotlar, Hernandez & Cohen, LLC. We can help you understand the rules for eligibility and support your rights to collect the benefits you deserve. Call us at 856-751-7676 or contact us online for a free consultation. Our offices are in Mount Laurel, Cherry Hill, Trenton, and Vineland, New Jersey; and Trevose, Pennsylvania. We serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania.