In 2020, around 2.7 Million workplace injuries and illnesses were filed in the United States. While we hope that you never suffer an accident at work, workplace injuries are a common occurrence across all industries, some more than others. Continue reading to educate yourself on your rights as an employee and the proper steps you should take in the event of a medical emergency while on the job!
What’s A Workplace Accident?
A workplace accident is any unexpected incident that occurs in the workplace and results in the physical injury or illness of an employee. There are many types of work accidents, but the most common are:
- Muscle injuries
- Falls and slips
- Cuts, lacerations, or punctures
- Hearing loss from exposure to loud noise
- Contact with objects
- Repetitive motion injuries
- Car crashes
Events That Are Not Considered Work-Related Accidents
While it’s important to demand your right to compensation if you suffer an accident at work, it’s equally important to understand what isn’t considered a work-related accident. Here are a few examples of incidents that do not qualify as a workplace injury:
- Accidents that occurred outside the work-environment
- Injuries sustained outside of working hours
- Accidents suffered when the worker is on a paid or unpaid leave of absence from work
Places Where Work-Related Accidents Happen Frequently
Restaurant kitchens are one of the most hazardous workplaces. Kitchen workers and cooks have high accident risks due to their exposure to several safety hazards related to food preparation. Some of the most common occupational injuries sustained in the kitchen:
- Burns sustained from contact with hot surfaces (stoves, ovens) or food (hot oil)
- Chemical hazards or risk of burns from the use of flammable products
- Injuries from contact with electrical appliances
- Cuts from the use of sharp tools (scissors and knives)
- Back injuries from lifting heavy objects
- Skin infections from handling food containing fungi, viruses, and bacteria
- Falls from slipping on food residues or other substances on the floor
Another hazardous industry for workers is the construction industry, where workplace accidents can be fatal. Here are some of the leading causes of work accidents in construction:
- Poor handling of heavy equipment
- Lack of maintenance of work equipment
- Lack of safety equipment
- Injury from falling debris
- Exposure to hazardous chemical substances
- Faulty elevators
Hotels are another of the workplaces that have high incidences of injuries. Some of the hazards and traumas experienced by hotel workers are:
- Stress from work overload
- Falls from wet surfaces and lack of proper safety signage in wet areas
- Fungal, viral and bacterial infections from exposure to unsanitary surfaces in used guest rooms and improper handling of used linen and towels
- Lack of maintenance in transportation equipment
What To Do If You Are Injured At Work
There’s always a risk of having an accident at work. If you or someone you know is injured while on the job, follow these six steps to take action and put your health first:
Step 1. Ask for medical attention
If you suffer an accident at your workplace, the first thing you should do is seek immediate medical attention. If your workplace has onsite medical staff, request their assistance immediately. If not, ask your employer to call 9-1-1 for an ambulance and go to the nearest hospital.
Step 2. Claim the compensation to which you’re entitled
By law, all workers who suffer a work-related accident in the U.S. can file for workers' compensation. Therefore, be sure to report the accident to your employer immediately after receiving medical attention—preferably within 24 hours. Make sure that your accident report is recorded by your company.
Step 3. Gather evidence of the accident
Although your employer is obligated by law to offer you compensation in the event of a workplace accident, it’s important to be prepared for any pushback. Hence, it’s necessary to gather every little bit of evidence of your injury. Some types of evidence you can keep a record of are: pictures, videos, testimony from your co-workers and witnesses.
Step 4. Ask your co-workers for support
Co-worker support is important in your worker’s comp claim. Ask your co-workers to inform you of everything that happens in the company while you’re recovering from your injury. In the event that your employer threatens to negate your worker’s comp case, your colleague’s testimony can help support your case.
Step 5. Keep track of your symptoms
In a legal worker’s comp claim, the most crucial piece of evidence is the medical report. It’s very important for you to keep a personal record of all your symptoms and ailments sustained following your injury. This will help your doctor provide you with a very detailed medical report about your injury and current health condition, which can be used as further evidence to back your legal claim.
Step 6. Keep track of your medical expenses
In the event of a medical emergency at work, you may need to pay your expenses out of pocket. Keep a copy of all your medical receipts so that you can be reimbursed by your employer as part of your claim. Your worker’s comp claim can reimburse you for:
- Specialized medical exams
- Nursing and home care staff
- Doctor's appointments
- Transportation to your doctor's office
As we have already mentioned, all workers in the United States who suffer a work-related accident or injury have the right to receive workers' compensation, regardless of who’s at fault. This right applies to all workers regardless of their legal status, however the type of compensation they can receive depends on the state where they live. Most state laws provide workers’ comp coverage for:
- Hospital Care
- ER Visits
- Medical transportation costs to the clinic or hospital where you receive care
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation
- Partial payment of lost wages
- Vocational rehabilitation (this occurs when the employee is no longer able to return to the same position and must learn another skill)
Workers’ compensation for farmers & agricultural workers
In most states, employers of farmers or agricultural workers are obligated to provide workers' compensation insurance. However, some states don’t require workers' compensation insurance by law (Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Tennessee).
If you're a farmworker in one of these states, be sure to find out if your employer offers this type of coverage. Although it's optional, many employers will offer it because it keeps them protected from potential lawsuits.
Compensation for domestic workers
Compensation for domestic workers is very similar to agricultural workers. While most states require employers to offer workers' compensation coverage to domestic workers, it is optional in more than 20 states (Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and West Virginia). For more information, we recommend visiting the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH)’s website about on-the-job injuries and compensation for immigrant workers in the United States.
Keep in mind: Many workplace accidents in the United States go unresolved because the affected workers, many of whom are Hispanic, often avoid filing a workers’ comp claim for fear of losing their jobs or suffering retaliation. You should consider consulting a workers’ compensation attorney or specialist about your employment rights.