The hazards of the workplace manifest themselves in a wide variety of injuries sustained by employees. The effects of some injuries are both immediate and obvious, such as blunt force accidents that result in fractures. Conversely, the effects of other injuries are both delayed and opaque, such as repetitive injuries.
The Illinois Workers’ Compensation and Occupational Diseases Act preserves the right of Illinois workers to receive compensation for damages owing to injuries sustained during the course of employment, including repetitive injuries. Damages owing to repetitive injuries may include lost wages or medical costs.
Generally, repetitive injuries are a consequence of an activity that is repeated over a long period of time. Workplaces create particular vulnerability to these injuries, because most jobs require workers to perform the same task, over and over again. Specifically, repetition of forceful exertion, sustained or awkward positions or compression can eventually translate into repetitive injuries.
Risks in many industries
Unsurprisingly, repetitive injuries are commonly incurred in industries featuring a high rate of manual labor. Warehouse and dock workers are prime examples. These workers are frequently in positions to carry heavy objects or maintain awkward postures, which can cause repetitive strain injuries if done persistently. However, desk jobs can also be hazardous in this context, given the exposure of backs, necks and wrists to constant computer work.
Given the diverse nature of workplace activities, across a wide range of industries, many different parts of the body may become exposed to repetitive injuries. The following repetitive injuries, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, are among the most common:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Chronic knee, back or neck pain
- Rotator cuff injuries
While this set of injuries exemplifies the types of repetitive injuries sustained in the workplace, others, such as spinal disc injuries, are also common.
Time lag presents challenges
One of the challenges associated with the typically delayed effects of repetitive injuries is the possible time lag between the origin of the injury and the point at which lost time or medical costs are incurred. By the time a repetitive injury manifests itself, the injured worker may have transitioned from the job that caused the injury, which may seem to weaken a case for workers’ compensation. Additionally, there are notification and filing timetables with which claimants must comply.
The key to enabling benefits for injured workers is proving the causal relationship between the workplace and the injury. Given the additional challenges associated with claiming repetitive injuries, claimants may wish to seek the help of a workers’ compensation attorney.