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The Problem of Workplace Injuries and the Law
Author: Julie-Ann Amos, UK

When a worker is required to use their computer during the day or handle another device repeatedly in order to fulfill their job duties, they can succumb to repetitive strain injuries.  By overtiring the muscles and ligaments, the worker can begin to feel pain during these movements, taking the pain home with them at the end of the day.  The more painful these injuries become, the more likely the worker will be to look into disability payments or possibly a lawsuit to receive compensation.  But are workers entitled to these kinds of payments?

Defining the Workplace Injury

Disability caused by repetitive strain injuries is a hot topic in business today.  Repetitive strain injuries are those injuries that occur after many repeated movements of a certain part of the body – i.e. carpal tunnel syndrome.  When the employee becomes injured, they can lose function in certain parts of their body and this affects their personal time as well as their work time.  If the injury should be directly related to the work setting, employees are able to apply for Worker's Compensation or sue their company for medical expenses and lost time from work.

The Issue of Workplace Injuries

With the increased demand for computer and communication workers, there is more need than ever for a discussion on handling workplace injuries.  While the numbers of those submitting lawsuits against their employers is unclear, what is clear is that more companies are trying to take preventative action against these kinds of legal actions, instead of having to pay out for the medical costs incurred by treatments.  The law is clear that if an employee gets injured at their place of work, they should be able to receive fair compensation for their injuries.  But this does not mean that an employee should sue whenever they feel the slightest bit of pain.

Legal Ways to Cut Down on Injuries

If the employer is concerned about lawsuits, they need to realize that their responsibility is first to their employee.  The employer needs to provide a safe setting in which their employees can work and be productive.  To reduce the number of potential lawsuits, there are several steps that can be taken:

  • Rewriting of the employee manual to include which communication devices can be used for work purposes – i.e. if Blackberries are not to be used for work related functions, injuries stemming from the use of these phones can not be included in a lawsuit
  • Ergonomically designed work desks – Having each employee be responsible for calling for an ergonomic consult puts the responsibility in their hands
  • Classes on proper work movements – By creating a voluntary class for employees, they will become educated as to how to perform their duties correctly and to avoid injury.
  • Implementation of health and fitness programs that reduce repetitive stress injury, such as prevention stretches and exercises – There are many useful stretches / exercises that employees can be taught to reduce the probability of RSI's, (repetitive strain injury) such as with the use of Flextend or Restore.

 

The idea of workplace injuries needs to be a two way street, with both the employer and the employee working together to prevent these kinds of situations.  Legally speaking, employees are able to sue for compensation, but an employer that provides the necessary tools to prevent such injuries can keep himself or herself from having to pay.

This is an issue that is unlikely to go away in the near future as injuries and their associated claims continue to rise. 

 

 

 

 
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