The Most Common Work Injuries and How to Avoid Them
Every year, thousands of workers face injuries at work that can be debilitating but are also preventable with sufficient care. Health and Safety Ontario identifies 4 major hazards that account for most workplace injuries:
1. Musculoskeletal Disorders:
Musculoskeletal Disorders (or MSDs) account for a full 43% of workplace injuries. Rather than involving a workplace accident of some sort, these types of injuries are often the result of repetitive action without sufficient rest, which causes extra strain on the human body. MSDs tend to affect the joints, muscles, and tendons. Other terms for this type of injury include:
- Repetitive strain injuries.
- Cumulative trauma disorder.
- Musculoskeletal injuries.
Prevention of MSDs involves physical fitness and knowing when to take rest breaks. This includes:
- Staying fit outside of work with a healthy exercise regimen.
- Taking regular breaks, particularly when you are performing a repetitive task.
- Maintaining good posture when working to prevent excess strain on your body.
2. Injuries from machinery:
Machines are a fixture of industrial workplaces, and have a number of possible hazards:
- Moving parts that can cause cuts, scrapes, and even serious injuries like crushing and dismemberment.
- Pressurized gas and liquid, sometimes at a very high temperature, which can cause burns and injuries when released in a pressure leak.
- The machine itself could suffer a short, or mishandling it could expose you to hazardous chemicals, fire, cold, or electric shock.
As with so many workplace hazards, prevention tends to be a combination of keeping informed and being careful. Safety measures include:
- Ensuring that you have been properly trained on how to use the machine safely, and not using any equipment you have not received training on.
- Checking all safety devices before each job.
- Maintaining the machinery to keep everything in top condition (such as ensuring that saw blades are sharp).
- Keeping the machinery and the area around it clean and free of obstructions or obstacles.
- Avoiding loose clothing that can get caught in machinery; likewise, if you have long hair, it should be properly secured.
3. Motor Vehicle Accidents:
Both on the road and at the workplace, motor vehicles are a leading cause of worker fatalities. On-road collisions are responsible for a full 30% of worker fatalities, with another 15% occurring due to accidents involving at-work motor vehicles, such as forklifts, pallet trucks, and scissor lifts.
When it comes to motor vehicles, accident prevention is paramount. Safety measures include:
- Avoiding alcohol or any drugs that can impair your judgement either when driving or being around motor vehicles at work.
- Staying rested and alert, and avoiding distractions.
- Practicing careful, defensive driving.
- Making use of the safety measures (such as seatbelts) built into motor vehicles both on the road and in the workplace.
4. Slips and falls:
Every year, slips and falls account for over ten thousand injuries in Ontario’s workplaces. There are two basic types of slips and falls:
- Falls from the same level. This accounts for around 65% of slips and falls, and tends to involve tripping over obstacles or rough surfaces, or losing your footing on slippery surfaces. Poor lighting at the workplace or wearing unsuitable shoes can contribute to this type of injury.
- Falls from heights. This occurs when somebody falls from a height of over 3 metres, and can involve falls from ladders or raised platforms.
Prevention of injuries from slips and falls include:
- Wearing and using appropriate safety gear, such as steel toed shoes and harnesses.
- Ensuring that your workplace has appropriate safety precautions, such as guardrails for raised platforms.
- Keeping the workplace clean, and being aware of spills and obstacles or debris that could cause you to trip or slip.
Most of these four types of injuries are preventable, or can at least be mitigated, so long as you are informed and careful. A clean workplace, special attention to safety, and knowing to take regular breaks to prevent excess strain on your body can all contribute to avoiding these four most common types of workplace injury.