While they aren’t usually the most obvious or the most gruesome workplace injuries, back injuries are actually among the most common workplace injuries in the country. At last count, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nearly one-in-four workplace accidents reported every year involve back injuries, and the most common cause cited for compensable injuries is an employee lifting, carrying or towering materials that are too heavy, or lifting a load the wrong way.
While there are no federal regulations governing workplace lifting, individual employers are responsible for developing their own standards and guidelines as part of their duty to protect workers from injury. There is a standard out there for employers to use to determine if manual lifting is reasonably safe. Developed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the “Work Practices Guide for Manual Lifting” attempts to determine acceptable and unacceptable lifting for the average person by setting for what it calls a “lifting equation.”
Six criteria that determine the limits for safe lifting:
- The weight of the object and duration of the lift
- Taking measurements of the placement of the worker’s hands before and during the lift
- Measuring the distance that will be traveled during the lift
- Accounting for the twisting motions used by the worker
- The number of lifts performed by the worker during a designated time period and
- The type of coupling or gripping used during the lift
Back injuries in the workplace occur due to either a sudden trauma or a cumulative strain of tendons, ligaments and muscles on the part of the worker. Any lifting that exceeds the maximum limit set by NIOSH using these standards simply cannot be performed safely by a single person. Whenever possible, employers should make mechanical devices, such as conveyors, jacks and hoists, should be used as much as is necessary to avoid the risk of back injury.
In addition to workers in the workplace, these NIOSH standards are used by companies who design tools and equipment, as well as those who package items for shipping. It is believed that using these standards can reduce the number of back injuries significantly enough to offset the cost of implementing them.
The fact of the matter is, recovering from back injuries caused by not using safe lifting practices can take weeks and months or even longer, whether the problem is a torn muscle, herniated disks, inguinal hernias, or even worse. Often, these problems can become chronic, and many involve surgery and long-term physical therapy. If you have been injured in a work-related lifting accident, you are entitled to make a workers’ compensation claim, which pays all medical and chiropractic expenses and two-thirds of your regular wages, and you don’t have to prove negligence on the part of your employer.
Under normal conditions, the injured employee is barred by law from suing their employer for a claim that was covered by workers’ compensation, but there are conditions under which it is possible to file a third-party claim for additional compensation. Employers have a legal duty of care to their employees, to protect them from physical injury in the workplace, which can include their primary place of business, or other places where an employee performs his work, like a construction site or a warehouse facility. That includes providing them with the necessary protective equipment, such as back braces or lifting belts.
The Gutierrez Law Firm – Texas Workplace Injury Lawyers
Demonstrating that the employer was negligent is not enough for a third-party claim; the evidence must show gross negligence or a reckless disregard for a worker’s safety, but it can be done under some circumstances. If you have injured yourself badly and you believe the workplace was not kept safe, you will need to hire an attorney to handle your claim; one with the experience to know exactly how to handle these types of very complex legal situations. The Workplace Injury Attorneys at The Gutierrez Law Firm have the skills to help you get the most for your third-party claim. Contact us for a free consultation to see if you qualify.