Construction workers in Oklahoma and around the country are more vulnerable to injuries called work-related musculoskeletal disorders than workers in other industries according to a study that appeared in Occupational and Environmental Medicine. WMSDs are caused by overwork and overexposure to vibrations. Actions such as twisting, holding awkward positions and bending also contribute to this damage to joints, tendons, muscles and nerves.
WMSDs were down in 2014 compared to 1992 with a drop from 55,000 to 18,000. However, one researcher said that although the decrease might be attributable to continuous interventions within the industry, it could also be influenced by underreporting and a shift in OSHA’s requirements for record keeping. While injuries are down, time recovering is up with days missed from work going from 8 in 1992 to 13 in 2014. The age of the worker and the number of years on the job are both factors in a higher rate of WMSDs with workers who have been in the industry more than five years who are older than 55 more vulnerable to injury. Injured workers also lose out on wages. In 2014, that total wage loss was around $46 million.
Experts believe these injury rates can be reduced through removing hazards, using machinery for heavy lifting and having workers assist one another in heavy lifting. Ergonomics training may also help.
Some of the financial burden of workplace injuries may be offset by workers’ compensation. Workers may be eligible to apply for compensation regardless of who is at fault in the accident. Sometimes, both employers and employees are unfamiliar with a worker’s rights regarding compensation. However, employers are not permitted to retaliate against an employee applying for compensation and should not discourage a worker from doing so. Workers who are encountering retaliation or who are unclear about their rights might want to consult an attorney.