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Overexertion and falls on the same level are the most common types of workplace injuries in the United States, according to a new study.

Liberty Mutual Insurance Co.’s “2019 Workplace Safety Index” reports on the causes and costs of the most common injuries across eight major industries. The list can be a good guide for employers, helping them understand the kinds of injuries which are most likely to occur on their worksites.

With the information in hand, you can review your current workplace safety programs to make sure you are focusing your efforts in the right area.

According to Liberty Mutual, the 10 costliest causes of workplace injury and illness are:

  1. Overexertion involving outside sources ($13.1 billion)
  2. Falls on the same level ($10.4 billion)
  3. Struck by object or equipment ($5.2 billion)
  4. Falls to lower level ($4.9 billion)
  5. Other exertions or bodily reactions ($3.7 billion)
  6. Roadway incidents involving a motorized vehicle ($2.7 billion)
  7. Slip or trip without falling ($2.2 billion)
  8. Caught in or compressed by equipment or objects ($1.9 billion)
  9. Repetitive motions involving micro-tasks ($1.6 billion)
  10. Struck against object or equipment ($1.2 billion)

The total cost of the above workplace injuries was $46.9 billion in 2016 – the source year for the data used by Liberty Mutual in compiling its latest annual report. These top 10 injuries accounted for 85% of all workers’ comp claims in eight industries.

What you can do

To ensure you keep your workplace as safe as possible, make sure you have safety protocols for the most likely injury types. Training and management buy-in is the key to a better safety environment. We’ll look at how to prevent the top three injuries here:

Overexertion – An overexertion injury happens when a worker becomes fatigued or performs a job where the body’s capacity to complete the task was not sufficiently considered.

Both can cause a mismatch between the physical capacity of workers and the physical demands of their jobs. These types of injuries are difficult to address since everyone has different physical strengths and stamina.

First, determine what types of strains and sprains are occurring among your workforce. Are there obvious jobs that demand high levels of strength, such as those requiring lifting? If so, consider using engineering controls such as mechanical lift assists, overhead hoists, and other controls to improve the positioning of products.

Another step would be to reduce the amount of weight lifted.

If high-strength jobs are not the problem, try to determine whether fatigue is a factor by talking to your workers about their daily duties and how often they take breaks. Short, more frequent breaks help prevent fatigue better than longer, less frequent ones.

Struck by object – To avoid struck-by injuries, require that your workers:

  • Wear hard hats to avoid falling objects.
  • Stack materials properly to prevent sliding, falling or collapse.
  • Always wear proper PPE (hard hats, safety glasses, goggles and face shields).
  • Never walk around and use mobile phones while working.
  • Don’t carry something in a way that will obstruct their view.
  • Make sure drawers and cabinets are always closed when not in use.
  • Only open one drawer at a time to prevent a tip-over.

Falls on same level – To reduce the chances of your workers injuring themselves from trips and falls, you should focus on:

  • Good housekeeping: A clean workplace is a safer workplace.
  • If you have a spill, rope it off, clean it up and workers should alert co-workers and supervisors of the spill.
  • Workers should always use cable covers or tape to prevent co-workers from tripping over cords.
  • Train your workers not to rush, and to be aware of their surroundings. They should not be distracted by their smartphones while walking, and not carry too much at once.
  • Train your workers not to work in dimly lit areas.
  • Your workers should wear shoes that are in good condition and tightly tied every shift.