Warehouse injuries and Workers Compensation – Part One

Posted on Tuesday, May 5th, 2020 at 4:39 pm    

As of December 2019, more than 1.1 million people worked in the warehousing industry, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Warehouse jobs include industrial truck operators; people who move and handle freight stock, and materials, clerks in shipping and receiving; stock clerks; people who complete orders; and storage and distribution managers. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic is altering the lives of everyone; more and more people are depending on efficient warehouse operations for their Amazon delivers, groceries, and a range of essential products. In addition to thanking these workers for essentially helping to save our lives, we also appreciate that all the work (often including extra hours now) can result in serious injuries in the workplace. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recent reports confirm that for every 100 warehouse workers, 5.1 workers were injured during the work year. Which is generally higher than the average workplace injury rate for all work sectors. (click here for a video on whether you can obtain comp benefits if you get sick from COVID-19 on the job). 

How do warehouse injuries occur?

Any employee who is injured while working at a warehouse has the right to file a workers’ compensation claim for 2/3rds of their average weekly wages and for all reasonable medical bills related to the injury. Some workers may also receive vocational rehabilitation benefits. 

Some of the more common ways that injuries occur while working in a warehouse include the following.

Forklift injures

These devices are small trucks used to move, store, raise, lower, and move inventory, pallets, boxes, and other items. Generally, forklift operators drive these trucks throughout the warehouse. These trucks can result in injuries or death for many reasons. Some workers aren’t properly trained in how to use forklifts. Many injuries occur when workers take incorrect turns, their loads drops, the forklifts run into or pin other workers, or for other reasons. 

According to Safety and Health Magazine:

  • The Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that each year 35,000 serious forklift injuries occur and 62,000 non-serious injuries occur.
  • Untrained forklift operators are as dangers as unlicensed car and truck drivers.
  • OSHA requires that workers have written training and practical hands-on training.
  • Forklift operators should inspect their truck before each time they use it. These checks include such parts as the tires, seat belts, horns, backup warnings, and other forklift features
  • There are crucial differences between driving a forklift and a standard four-wheel vehicle including:
    • The driver is not fully enclosed
    • The weights are much different
    • Forklifts are designed to move slower than cars
    • They have 3-point suspension
    • They have a tight turning radius
    • Spotters should be considered for backup operations
  • The center of gravity of the truck is different than for a vehicle. Forklifts are more prone to tip over – whether they are loaded or not loaded. For this reason, loads should be secured. Loads should be kept “low to the ground during operation.” Forklifts that tip over are a leading cause of forklift injuries. We have represented clients with very serious injuries who were ejected from a forklift when a heavy load caused the forklift to rise and then abruptly fall when the load abruptly fell off the forks. 
  • Operators should know the load basics. “Move squarely in front of the load and move the forks apart as far as possible before driving them under the load. Make sure to not overload and that the load is centered.”

Overexertion injuries.

According to Safety and Health Magazine, overexertion is another leading cause of injuries and deaths for warehouse workers. These injuries are due to using too much force or stress in doing tasks such as lifting, carrying, pushing, and pulling objects. Workers who suffer overexertion injuries often need to time off from work to treat injuries to their neck, shoulders and backs. Other injuries due to overexertion include harm to the wrists, arms, and knees. Overexertion injuries can lead to acute pain. They can also lead to chronic pain which can require weeks, months, or even a lifetime of continual treatment.

Overexertion injuries include strains and sprains, torn ligaments, joint damage, tissue injuries, and nerve injuries. Overexertion can also cause heart attacks and heart disease.

Employers can help reduce overexertion injuries by:

  • Providing training on lifting and other physical techniques
  • Allowing for reasonable breaks
  • Shifting the workers assignments
  • Enlisting the aid of other workers for very heavy objects

Injuries at the loading dock

Loading dock injuries can occur for different reasons. Often, the injuries or deaths involve forklifts and trailers that fall off the docks. Workers can also be knocked off the docks or suffer serious slip and fall injuries if they are knocked down by a forklift or trailer. Warehouse workers who work near these vehicles for long stretches of time may suffer carbon monoxide poisoning. Other common injuries occur when there is an uneven surface between a truck and loading dock such that a dolly may get stuck or fall into a space and thereby cause injury to whomever is pushing the dolly. 

Being struck by an object

There’s a lot of moving activity at a warehouse. Forklifts are in constant motion, Workers are pushing and pulling carts and other devices to move the loads around too. Many workers can easily be struck be loads from the forklifts or from the shelves if the inventory is not properly loaded and secured. Warehouse workers can be injured if the company requires that items be stacked very high. 

Workers who are struck by objects, especially heavy ones, can suffer traumatic brain injuries, head and neck injuries. back injuries, broken bones, and a range of other serious injuries that require time off from work to properly treat.

Being caught between objects

Many warehouse injuries are due to a worker being pinned between a forklift and a wall and between different pieces of equipment. Sometimes the injures affect the whole body. Often, a warehouse worker’s hand or fingers are pinned. Workers who are caught between objects can suffer:

North Carolina and Virginia workers’ compensation lawyer Joe Miller Esq. understands how much every-day hard workers are now putting their lives on the line to serve others, particularly now, when many warehouse workers are deemed “essential” in Virginia to keep goods and services rolling to quarantined consumers. It’s only just and proper that if warehouse employees are injured while working, that they should receive all of the worker’s compensation that the law allows. Joe Miller has been helping workers get the recoveries they deserve for workplace injuries for over 30 years. To discuss your workers’ compensation claim, call us at 888-694-1671, or use our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.