Neck Injuries on the Job
The most recent data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that 11,600 US workers lost work days to on-the-job neck injuries in one year. Of those, 3,260 were treated in hospital emergency departments and 960 stayed at least one night in the hospital. While the number of neck injuries on the job is lower than some other types of injuries, these injuries can be quite serious.
Neck injuries made up just 1.3% of work-related injuries that result in lost work time. But, they made up 2.2% of on-the-job injuries resulting in hospital stays. In other words, neck injuries sustained at work were nearly 70% more likely to result in a hospital stay than other types of injuries.
Common Causes of Neck Injuries on the Job
Some of the most common causes of neck injuries, on or off the job, include motor vehicle accidents and falls. Whiplash is a common effect of motor vehicle accidents, particularly rear-end accidents. But, neck injuries don’t always result from a sudden, traumatic injury like those sustained in a motor vehicle accident or fall. Both repetitive motion and awkward positioning can cause neck problems over time.
High Risk Industries for Neck Injuries
Neck injuries can occur in nearly any industry. For example, a workplace fall can happen almost anywhere. Similarly, poor posture and awkward positioning or repetitive stress injuries can occur in jobs that don’t require strenuous physical activity. Under some circumstances, they may even occur in desk jobs. However, certain industries carry a more significant risk of neck injuries than others.
One of the industries that carries the greatest risk of neck and other spinal injuries is construction. This probably comes as no surprise, since construction workers often use repetitive motion, and are called upon to lift and carry heavy objects, stretch, strain, climb, and otherwise exert themselves and put strain on their bodies. But, another of the highest risk professions might surprise you.
A significant percentage of on-the-job neck injuries occur in hospital and nursing home settings. While these injuries can occur in different ways, including falls, they are typically attributable to the fact that nursing home staff and nurses in hospitals and other facilities are often called upon to lift, transfer, and support patients. One study showed that healthcare workers were about 55% more likely than the average worker to sustain neck injuries on the job.
Long Hours Put Workers at Greater Risk
Another factor you might not anticipate is the number of hours worked each week. The same study referenced above determined that employees who worked more than 40 hours per week were more likely to suffer neck pain. Working 40 to 59 hours per week resulted in about a 20% increase in likelihood that the worker reported neck pain. From 60 hours upward, workers were about 35% more likely to report neck pain.
Neck Injuries and Workers Compensation
Of course, neck pain comes in many forms and varying levels of seriousness. However, even neck pain that is not associated with a traumatic event can be a sign of repetitive stress, degenerative damage, or some other serious and potentially long-term impact. That means unexplained neck pain may be a work injury, even if you don’t recall a specific incident causing injury.
With very limited exceptions, both Massachusetts and New Hampshire workers compensation programs cover injuries sustained at work regardless of the nature of the injury or the cause. In the case of a neck injury, there may be complications in pursuing that claim. For instance, when there was no clear point of trauma, it may be difficult to demonstrate that the injury occurred on the job. Even when the injury occured in a single clear event, or the cause is otherwise undisputed, there may be conflict regarding the value of the claim.
That’s because when potential long-term damage is involved or recovery is a long process involving ongoing medical care and rehabilitation, it may be difficult to predict the long-term costs and ultimate outcome. In these situations, unfortunately, workers’ compensation carriers may attempt to push for a quick lump sum settlement. While this is attractive to many people who have been injured and are in need of funds, it can be risky. Depending on the terms of your settlement, you may find that you are on your own if you need further medical care later. That can be a very expensive proposition, and may even mean that you do not have access to the medical care that you need.
If you are considering a workers’ compensation settlement and you have ongoing or long-term injuries, it is in your best interest to consult an experienced workers’ compensation attorney before making any decisions. Attorney Kevin P. Broderick has experience representing workers’ compensation claimants in both Massachusetts and New Hampshire. You can schedule a free consultation with him right now by calling 978-459-1792 or filling out the contact form on this page.
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