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Despite safety improvements, New Jersey workplace injuries still common

New Jersey workplace accidents happen with alarming regularity.

According to data provided by the State of New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH)'s Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, 90 workers were killed on the job in the New Jersey in 2012 alone. During that same time, the NJDOH reports that another 106,700 workers were injured or dealing with occupational illnesses and related medical conditions. Extrapolating this data, it is possible to determine that, on average, a worker was killed every four days that year, and that 12 workers were injured or feeling the impact of an occupational disease or illness every hour. Given these startling statistics, it is clear that, despite improvements in safety and advances in medical treatment, workplace injuries and job-related illnesses are still common across the state.

Common causes of injuries

Perhaps the most common type of on-the-job injury, and the cause of recent serious injuries to two unlucky Toms River construction workers, is falling. Falls can happen at any height and be caused by nearly anything, ranging from inadequate safety measures to spilled liquids.

In the case of the Toms River construction accident, two men were working on the third floor of a new townhome construction project when the floor collapsed. They fell through to the second floor, which also collapsed, sending them crashing down to the first floor. Both men were treated for their injuries at local hospitals, but the extent of the damage done to their bodies wasn't made public.

Falls are not limited to workers whose jobs put them in unfinished structures, though. Falls can happen in any setting, including offices, retail stores and factories, just to name a few. Falls can result from inadequate safety protection - such as slipping of a scaffold while not wearing a safety harness - or can result from something as innocuous as a broken bottle of juice on a grocery store floor. Workers can suffer serious injuries even if they fall only a short distance.

Other common causes of workplace injuries include:

  • Cuts/scrapes/lacerations
  • Amputation of digits or limbs
  • Crush injuries (from manufacturing machinery, farm equipment or power tools)
  • Electrocution
  • Traffic accidents
  • Improper lifting (which can cause sore muscles, herniated or bulging discs, nerve damage or spinal misalignment)
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals
  • Heat
  • Burns

Ways to improve workplace safety

Perhaps the most effective - and easiest to implement - strategy for improving the safety of New Jersey workplaces is to adopt and enforce strict policies that encourage safe practices. For example, if your work regularly entails climbing a ladder or scaffold, your employer should ensure that you are adequately trained on proper ladder use (including always putting it on a flat surface, not exceeding weight limits, keeping three-point body contact at all times, not reaching outside the frame of the ladder, carrying items in a tool belt or harness instead of with your hands, etc.), have access to any safety equipment that may make your job safer and should encourage implementation of safety practices daily. Employers should also offer periodic "refresher" courses in safety policies in order to ensure that workers are indeed practicing them.

Keeping the workplace as clear of debris or clutter as possible, having first-aid kits available, encouraging employees to speak out about safety concerns, covering up obvious hazards like electrical wires and providing adequate training on key safety issues will also decrease the chances of work-related injuries. In spite of our best efforts, though, workplace accidents may still happen. If you have been injured on the job, speak with a workers' compensation attorney today.

Keywords: workplace accident, workplace injury, workers' compensation, work comp, on-the-job injury

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