When you hear the phrase, “workers’ comp”, you’re probably thinking of heavy machinery, toxic chemicals, and occupational hazards around every turn. A work-related injury can happen in any industry, however, and isn’t limited to the jobs that people typically associate with being “dangerous”.
The definition of “work-related injury” can be more far-encompassing than you might think. The jobs you wouldn’t normally think of as dangerous — working at a desk, for example — may not be as safe as they might appear if no one is taking proper care.
In this article, we’ll discuss what constitutes a workplace hazard, common hazards for office workers, and how you can get the compensation you deserve if you’re injured at work.
Can You Get Injured at a Desk Job?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, states that a workplace injury as any new or worsened injury or illness that relates to any part of a person’s job. There are no rules about the industry or type of job where the injury or illness occurs, just that it happens on company time as a result of something done in a professional capacity.
The stereotypical workplace injury involves a person dropping a heavy object onto a part of their body or falling off a ladder, and while these cases do occur, the reality of what workplace injuries look like is very different. For office workers, accidents and injuries like these can happen, but many common workplace injuries for desk workers come on slowly and are more long-lasting in nature.
Most Common Workplace Injuries for Office Workers
Here are some of the most common workplace injuries that people who do their work from a desk face often:
Slips, Trips, and Falls
Despite a lack of hazardous materials or heavy equipment in most office settings, injuries can occur out of relatively minor circumstance. If a careless coworker doesn’t wrap a cord in a safe way or leaves a filing drawer open, someone else in the office could trip and injure themselves.
If a member of the custodial staff cleans the floor and doesn’t allow it adequate time to dry, another member of the office is likely to slip, potentially causing injury.
Slips, trips, and falls are the most common source of missed-time injuries, making up 1 of every 6 that happen in the workplace. In some industries, such as construction and manufacturing, these types of accidents are leading causes of death or traumatic brain injury. In office jobs, the consequences are less severe but serious injuries can occur.
Strains and Overexertion
Strains can include injuries sustained from reaching for supplies and equipment in the office to injuries like carpal tunnel, resulting from holding your hands and wrists in certain positions for too long. Strains in the office aren’t limited to physical strains — eye strain is a major risk for professionals that spend a lot of time working on the computer, as more and more jobs demand today.
Being Struck By Office Equipment
While a box of paper or a stapler falling off a shelf and hitting someone in the office isn’t something that happens often, it remains a risk nonetheless. When things aren’t stored properly, they become occupational hazards. Offices tend to be tight spaces in some cases as well, so an office worker accidentally striking something in the office can be a source of workplace injury as well.
Poor Workplace Ergonomics
Workstation ergonomics refer to an office worker fitting their workspace for their personal comfort, but limitations tend to exist that can keep ergonomics from being ideal in a given office. For example, office chairs with little to no lumbar support may lead to long-term, chronic back problems over a long period of use.
Adjustable desks that allow workers to alternate between standing and sitting while they work are recommended to prevent spinal injury and discomfort. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) musculoskeletal injuries made up around one-third of total workplace injuries in 2013.
Environmental concerns can range from a substandard temperature in a workspace to poor air quality. Many offices are located in older businesses, which means that HVAC filters and ducts may not be as clean as they should be for healthy breathing. Some office jobs are on the premises of companies that use chemicals and other substances that may be toxic to breathe. You might be surprised to learn that the safety precautions that apply to people that handle toxic chemicals don’t always extend to those who may be working near them, putting office workers at a plant or manufacturing facility at higher risk than their counterparts on the floor.
Accounting for Workplace Safety
There are a variety of best practices recommended to mitigate the risk of injury, even in a desk job. The U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Human Resources Management breaks down how many of the most common workplace injuries occur and how to prevent them.
Can Office Workers Get Workers’ Comp?
Anyone can get workers’ compensation if they suffer a workplace injury or illness and this applies to office workers as much as any other type of job. Just because an office job may not have as many inherent occupational hazards as roles in other industries doesn’t mean you aren’t entitled to compensation if an accident happens at work.
If you’re like many people, however, you won’t know how to start a workers’ comp claim, and you may be working for an employer who isn’t eager to pay you the compensation that you deserve. Make sure you know the documentation you need to collect during each step of the process to increase the chance of a successful claim.
When filing a workers’ compensation claim, many workers feel like they’re being “bad employees” or that they’re somehow taking advantage of their employer. If you’re hurt on the job, your employer is liable for your injuries, with little regard for how they occurred. An experienced workers’ comp attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve for workers’ compensation claims and in nearly every case, having legal representation at your side can increase the chances for a successful claim.