Overview of Occupational Diseases and Injuries

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2013 there were more than three million reported non-fatal workplace injuries and diseases in the private sector alone.  A significant majority (94%) of these cases were work-related injuries, and 5.1% (an estimated 153,000 individuals) suffered from an occupational disease.  Both occupational diseases and injuries can cause a tremendous amount of pain and suffering that is deserving of workers' compensation benefits.

What is an Occupational Injury/Disease?

An occupational injury is when a person is harmed as a result of a specific on-the-job accident where the exact date and cause can be determined.  An occupational disease, on the other hand, is a type of work injury that occurs over time and causes chronic ailment preventing you from performing your job duties or from possibly ever working again.

The main difference between an occupational injury and disease is that occupational diseases do not derive from one particular incident, but rather happen over a period of time or series of repetitive actions.

Common Occupational Injuries and Diseases

Here are some of the most common occupational injuries that occur in the U.S:

  • Slip and falls – Often, a slip and fall accident can occur by tripping on a wet floor.  An employee (or customer) may also trip over objects that are improperly stored, or perhaps they simply weren't paying attention to what was in front of them.

  • Overexertion – Overexerting past the body's limits has consistently been one of the top occupational injuries.  Overexertion can happen due to strenuous repetitive motions, as well as weather conditions such as heat-related injuries or cold hazards.

  • Falling objects – This occurs when boxes or other objects fall from shelves or are dropped by other workers.  Falling debris or objects is routinely a factor in construction site accidents.

  • Machinery – A worker can be caught or possibly compressed by heavy machinery and become seriously injured or killed.

  • Multi-story falls – Falls from multiple stories most commonly occur in construction zones.  Plunging from high buildings, off ladders and other equipment can easily result in serious injury or death.

  • Lifting – Improperly lifting heavy objects can result in serious, chronic back injuries. No approach has been found to completely eradicate risk of injury from lifting heavy objects; however, safety awareness and planned work tasks have been shown to reduce the danger.

  • Car accidents – Driving is dangerous, and people who spend a lot of time on the road for their job are exposed to great risk every day. Getting into work-related car accident may mean you have both a workers' comp and personal injury case.

Listed below are some of the most common occupational diseases that workers suffer from:

  • Carpal tunnel – CTS is a very common disease that many people deal with after using their hands and wrists repetitively.  Learn more about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome…

  • Chemical poisonings – Toxic exposure is one of the most common causes of occupational disease in the U.S.  In fact, the CDC states that more than 13 million American workers are exposed to hazardous chemicals that can be absorbed through the skin.  Many employers focus on preventing inhalation of the toxic chemicals, but skin exposure can be just as dangerous.

  • Poison from pesticides – Between the years of 1987 and 1989, 50% of the occupational diseases that occurred were due to people being exposed to pesticides.  The skin and respiratory system are usually the most affected by pesticides; however, the nervous system and gastro intestinal track can be harmed as well.

  • Asbestos – Many people suffer from mesothelioma due to unknowingly ingesting asbestos on construction sites and other places. 

Compensation for Injuries and Diseases Caused by Your Job

For all of the injuries and diseases listed above, in addition to other health risks caused by your job, you should be covered under your employer's workers' compensation insurance policy.  If your employer is not proactive in helping protect you from various occupational injuries and diseases, there are some ways in which you can try to protect yourself: 

  • Make sure to always wear the proper safety gear for whatever job you are doing.
  • Be mindful of your body's limits when moving heavy objects. Lift with your legs!
  • Invest in high quality equipment that will reduce the negative impact of the job on your body.  You can try and talk to your employer about having them pay for it and why you feel it is necessary.
  • Always be focused and cautious when climbing on ladders and using equipment.  If you are unsure how to do something, ASK! 
  • Read all chemical labels and understand all the risks of the machinery and materials around you.

If you have suffered an occupational injury or disease which your employer refuses to pay for, don't wait to see if the situation changes.  Act now and contact Colorado workers' compensation attorney R. Mack Babcock for a free consultation.  Mack and his legal team can help determine your legal options and skillfully represent you in court if it comes to that.

See the articles below, or visit our knowledge center and blog to learn more about work injury and workers' comp.

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