Offices are generally safe and secure places to work in New Jersey. Unlike construction sites and industrial warehouses, you don’t usually encounter heavy machinery or the need for strenuous manual labor, and unlike nursing or other medical professions there is limited lifting, pushing and pulling. Yet, the U.S. Bureau for Labor Statistics estimated that in the finance and insurance industries, professions that typically operate out of traditional office space, one in every 100 employees were injured at work last year.
These workplace injuries spanned a surprising range of type and severity. Yet, just as nursing is particularly prone to neck and back injuries, and falls are common to working in construction – certain workplace injuries are more common than others in offices. Office managers, human resources, and upper management can save considerable costs and improve the working environment by proactively addressing the most frequent office injuries.
#1: Slips, Trips & Falls
Across industries, slips, trips and falls account for more workplace injuries than any other cause. These unfortunate accidents require employees to take significant time off work and are a major source of workers’ compensation claims in New Jersey. This includes claims that come from office workers, who are actually 2.5 more likely to slip or trip at work than workers in any other environment or industry.
Unsuspecting office employees are victims of hidden and overlooked trip and fall hazards every day. For instance, a huge number of office employees trip on cords, cables and wiring that are stretched across a corridor or between desks. In an instance of distraction or misstep, it is easy for an employee to catch a foot on these cords and fall. It is also incredibly easy for these hazards to be corrected or avoided. Offices should always repair uneven floors, run wiring along walls and ceilings, not across the floor, require pathways and hallways to be clear of paper and other objects and ensure office spaces are well lit.
#2: Neck, Back and Shoulder Strains
It might seem unlikely that office employees would strain their neck, back or shoulders while at work – but it happens quite often. A major reason is that office work requires employees to sit for a long period of time, and when action is required, the body is tight, tense and unprepared. A common scenario is an office employee that needs to reach and restock supplies.
Office supplies and other materials are often kept in storerooms; where they are stacked high and sometimes out of reach. Obtaining these supplies after hours in the seated position commonly causes injury to the neck and back. Similarly, workplace injuries are common when office employees need to carry materials or transport equipment.
Many companies learn the frequency of neck, back and shoulder strains in offices and make small changes to the setup or arrangement of their workspace. Placing office supplies on lower shelves and providing trolleys to move heavy items are two examples. However, another way to address the issue is by encouraging employees to walk around, stretch and stay active throughout the workday.
Plus, education on workplace exercises and stretches can help solve or reduce another common office injury.
#3: Cumulative Trauma & Repetitive Motion Workplace Injuries
Many of the office injuries that require substantial workers’ compensation benefits are those that don’t happen in an instance or from a single accident. Instead, these, sometimes significant, workplace injuries occur over time.
Cumulative trauma and repetitive motion or strain injuries are the result of performing the same action, over and over and over again. In both instances, the aggregate effect of this repeated motion is general or acute pain, reduced range of motion, or soreness in a specific part of the body. Some of the specific injuries associated with cumulative trauma and repetitive motion are carpal tunnel, tendonitis, writer’s cramp, lower back pain and sciatica.
The underlying cause of these injuries is constant sitting and typing. Some office employees spend hours on end sitting in the same chair or position in front of a computer. While this doesn’t cause any pain or injury when done for one week or even one year – over the course of a career, it can result in debilitating conditions.
Businesses have become more aware of these cumulative trauma and repetitive motion injuries as the cost of workers’ compensation continues to climb. More attention is given to office furniture and desk arrangement. Companies that provide options for better keyboards, upgraded monitors, and even, stand up and “walking” desks.
#4: Injuries At the Office But Not Involving Work Duties
A significant number of workplace injuries occur when employees are at the office, but away from their desk. For instance, an employee is electrocuted in the company’s office kitchen or slips on a spill outside the elevator bank. Other examples include burns from spilled coffee and cuts or scrapes from the misuse of office equipment.
Organization and proper training are key to avoiding these accidents, and the resulting injuries. It is necessary that office managers are aware of equipment or appliances that could malfunction and tend to any spills or clutter in a timely manner.
In New Jersey, injuries from these accidents are still under the purview of workers’ compensation, but employers and insurance providers may make it harder to successfully file for appropriate benefits. If an employee experiences delay or refusal by an employer to provide workers’ compensation for these injuries, speaking with an attorney can be beneficial.
Attorney Albert J. Talone handles workers’ compensation cases that arise from unique or unusual workplace injuries. If you have questions about your eligibility for workers’ compensation in New Jersey, or want to discuss an employer’s refusal to provide compensation or benefits, call the Law Offices of Albert J. Talone at 856-234-4023.
The information in this blog post (“Post”) is provided for general informational purposes only. This information may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this Post should be construed as legal advice from The Law Office of Albert J. Talone or the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter.