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Back injuries in the workplace

As many workers in Illinois may know, overexertion is a leading cause of back injury. This may decrease the quality of life previously enjoyed by its sufferers. Some jobs predispose the worker to lower back injuries. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, work that involves forceful lifting and pushing or pulling is most likely to result in back injury. Using a jackhammer that causes body vibration is another common source. Generally, studies confirm that improper movement, abrupt slip and fall, additive trauma and unexpected exertion were often noted as leading causes of back pain and injury.

The incidence of back pain in workplace injuries is estimated at more than one million cases annually and is commonly related to muscle strain. Once injured, the muscles are weakened and predispose the worker to repeat injury. Back injuries are also a major reason workers are forced to miss time from work and result in a cost of $50 to $100 million. Of that amount, about $11 million is spent on workers' compensation payouts.

There are things employers may do to lessen back injuries in the workplace. While no one plan works in all instances, a combination of worker training and safer workplace conditions may help.

When workers are injured on the job, they may apply for workers' compensation. If they are eligible, medical and other benefits may help if the worker is unable to work while recovering. Once workers' compensation is accepted, a worker may not file a lawsuit against an employer. However, a personal injury action may in some cases be maintained if it can be determined that a non-employer third party was responsible.

Source: Central States Orthopedics, "Work-Related Injuries -- Lower Back", October 09, 2014

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