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What is considered a workplace accident, and how can they be prevented?

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What do construction sites, wood shops, warehouses and produce farms have in common? Each is a potentially hazardous workplace, where accidents could cause serious injury — sprains, strains, broken bones, torn tendons, concussions and even death. 

When most people think about workplace injury, they think chiefly of these traumatic injuries. They fail to realize that exposure to hazardous materials, work-related stress, wear and tear on muscles and joints, pinched nerves and other more gradual damage also constitute workplace injuries, and that those who suffer them may be entitled to financial compensation.

If you believe you’ve been a victim of a workplace accident or injury, Conexión Legal can help connect you with expert workplace injury attorneys. Simply call 1 (800) 210-1220, or write us through WhatsApp, so that you can receive the best legal advice — free of charge — as soon as possible, and connect with attorneys in our network.

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How can I prevent a workplace accident?

Workplace accidents are classified as an unplanned incident or event that leads to the injury of an employee and/or damage to a company’s property. Workplace accidents can leave workers permanently injured, disabled, disfigured or worse. In 2019 alone, 5,333 workers died from a work-related injury in the United States. 

It is the responsibility of both workers and employers to create, encourage and maintain safe work environments so that accidents do not happen by following these steps:

  1. Training

Normally, when entering into a potentially hazardous workplace, workers are educated by their company on best practices to avoid injury, which include proper maintenance and operation of machinery, techniques to avoid repetitive stress injuries (like carpel tunnel syndrome or pinched nerves) and providing or recommending proper safety equipment or footwear. 

In turn, employees must also be aware of the risks of not performing tasks responsibly, since they can create an environment conducive to an accident. For example: A worker who has poorly maintained their work area, who has not used recommended protective gear (gloves, helmets, glasses and vests) or who has handled chemicals or substances without precaution (or without being authorized) may suffer an injury due to the conditions they created, in which case, the employer is not liable for damages.

Even the best prevention practices, though, are not foolproof. Review workplace safety policies, learn the protocols that employees must follow in the event of an accident or injury and learn who you should contact to help you in this process.

The more you know, the safer you will be. Always be aware of your surroundings. Identify emergency exits, the location of fire extinguishers and the positioning of eye wash stations. Locate signs that advise which areas are dangerous, and which indicate the presence of potentially dangerous chemicals and substances.

  1. Self-prevention

Keep your work space neat and clean, so you can avoid injuring yourself or a third party. Keep drawers closed, chairs pushed in, and computer cables secured and tucked away. If your job requires lifting, learn proper lifting techniques and wear a back brace. If your job requires long periods of sitting, ensure your chair is comfortable, and take active breaks — walking or doing squats or lunges. If your job is excessively noisy, wear hearing protection. These common-sense precautions will not only help you avoid injury, but will ensure that, if you are injured in a workplace accident, you are not found to be at fault. Also remember: Injuries are not covered by worker’s compensation if drugs or alcohol are found to be involved.

  1. Maintain safe labor conditions

Identify which supervisors are in charge of workplace safety. If conditions are lacking — poor ventilation, poor lighting, loose equipment, exposed electrical wires, exposed saw blades, unsecured objects overhead, slippery or uneven flooring, damaged safety equipment, missing smoke detectors or non functioning fire suppression systems — inform them of the conditions you observe. Make a record of that interaction, and if possible, file a report. 

Maintaining a safe work environment is not limited to maintaining the physical facilities. Excessive mental stress can also affect workers in their job performance. That stress can come from abusive supervisors, lack of breaks or shortened breaks. Many states mandate breaks of a certain length for work shifts that last over a certain amount of hours, and workplace discrimination or harassment is against the law. Conexión Legal can connect you with attorneys in your area who are experts in those labor laws.

If an employer is shown to have allowed safety certificates to lapse, to have improperly trained employees, or to have otherwise fostered unsafe working conditions, they may be partially or wholly responsible for any accident that results from that behavior. That is considered workplace negligence, and, depending on its severity, could be a criminal offense.

What do I do if I am injured due to a workplace accident?

  1. Inform the employer as soon as possible and file an accident report. 
  2. In case of emergency, seek medical care immediately. If the injury is due to repetitive motion, see a doctor and carefully document all of your medical care, including dates, doctor names, procedures, costs and diagnoses.
  3. Preserve physical evidence — take photos of the conditions that allowed the accident to occur. The more evidence and documentation you have, the easier it will be for an attorney to argue your case.
  4. Contact a worker’s compensation attorney with the help of Conexión Legal.
  5. Determine disability. Depending on the type of injury, it will be necessary to determine if you will be absent from work, and for how long. “Permanent disability” is a term used in insurance, but it does not only mean severe, visible disability — i.e. wheelchair use, loss of limb, loss of vision or hearing. Permanent disability, in legal terms, is any lasting disability from your work injury or illness that affects your ability to earn a living. If your injury or illness results in a permanent disability, you are entitled to permanent disability benefits, even if you are able to go back to work.

In case your place of employment does not assume its responsibilities regarding workers’ compensation, you should seek legal advice so that you understand your options.

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