Overexertion while lifting: a major cause of workplace accidents

The workplace can be viewed as many things, but most do not consider it a place where their health and well-being is at danger. Unfortunately, even in work environments that do not have apparent risks and dangers could be the cause of an employee's injury or illness. Thus, it is important to be aware of these sometimes hidden risks, how to protect yourself, and what could be done if you fall victim to a workplace accident or work-related illness.

According to current statistics, overexertion during manual lifting activities in the workplace maintains its place as the leading occupational health and safety issue. While there is currently no approach that can eliminate the risk of injuries to workers, effective training and ergonomically designed equipment could help reduce the occurrence of these injuries.

Although there aren't any specific OSHA standards that focus on safe manual lifting practices, OSHA is able to cite employers based on their duty to provide a workplace that is free from recognized hazards. Employers should be following guides that provide formulas aimed at determining the maximum weight that could be lifted by an employee under certain lifting conditions. Based on this information, employers can safely adjust the weight lifted, provide lifting aids, and even amend the workflow so that a lift remains within the guidelines.

Overexertion can result in serious injuries. While it is common to have to lift items in work, manual lifting is frequently the source of strains, sprains, torn ligaments or muscles, and ruptured or slipped disks. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 94,420 workers employed in private industries suffered injuries in 2015 caused by overexertion while lifting. In comparison, falls, which is a major cause of workplace injuries, caused 50,490 injuries that year.

No matter the cause of a workplace accident, it is not only important to understand how an employee was injured but also the rights afforded to him or her. Workers' compensation benefits may be available to injured workers, which could help them cover medical bills, rehabilitation costs, physical therapy expenses, and lost wages. The process isn't always easy, though, which is why many injured workers seek the assistance of a qualified legal professional.

Source: Silicon Valley Business Journal, "6 ways to prevent workplace lifting injuries," Judies Smithers, July 19, 2017

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