Those who routinely lift heavy objects at work constantly put pressure on their bodies. Not surprisingly, lifting heavy objects is one of the leading causes of workplace injuries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were more than 86,000 reported cases of lifting-related injuries. While lifting injuries in the workplace sometimes occur over time, the majority of these injuries were the result of one-time lifts.
Workplace Injuries Caused by Heavy Lifting
For many workers, lifting heavy objects is part of their daily routine. Heavy lifts place a major burden on the body, especially on the back. However, other areas of the body can also be affected, either through single heavy lifts or repetitive lifting of lighter objects. Some of the most common types of injuries related to lifting heavy objects in the workplace include:
- Fractured vertebrae,
- Disc injuries,
- Pinched nerves,
- Pulled muscles,
- Elbow injuries,
- Spine injuries, and
- Wrist and elbow injuries.
Often, those who work in an environment where heavy lifting is the norm face pressure to “tough it out,” even when their bodies are signaling that they’ve had enough. However, it is essential that workers not only speak up when they feel their bodies cannot take anymore but also practice proper lifting techniques.
Safe Lifting Practices
Lifting heavy objects is unavoidable for many employees. However, there is a right way to go about this potentially dangerous task. Employees should be sure to take all precautions and ask supervisors to provide additional safety equipment when necessary. There are several things that workers and employers can do to decrease the chances of lifting injuries in the workplace.
Avoid Lifting Heavy Objects Without Assistance
For especially heavy lifts, workers should use a forklift or at least enlist the assistance of a co-worker. When assistance isn’t available, workers should start heavy lifts in their “power zone,” which is the area between the thighs and chest.
Keep an Eye on Posture
Maintaining a proper posture is key to executing a safe lift, especially when dealing with heavy objects or frequently lifting any object from ground level. Workers should avoid bending their back while lifting, which places additional pressure on the spine. It is also important not to lift objects with just one side of the body, even if the object seems light.
Avoid Frequent and Prolonged Lifts
The longer someone holds an object up, the greater the risk of injury. Thus, employers should provide workers with stands, jigs, or another device that eliminates a worker’s need to hold an object at a high height. Employers should also allow workers to take frequent breaks, rotating the employee responsible for lifting the objects.
Watch out for Poor Handholds
The risk of a back injury increases significantly when workers must lift objects without proper handholds. Often, a poor handhold will result in the object being farther away from the body, putting unnecessary pressure on the back.
While workers can—and should—take all available precautions, injuries will still happen. When they do, an injured worker can pursue a workers’ compensation claim to help them cover their expenses, including medical bills and lost wages.
The New Jersey Workers’ Compensation System
Injured workers can file a claim for benefits under New Jersey workers’ compensation law. Because the workers’ comp program is a no-fault system, an injured worker does not need to prove anyone else was at fault for their injuries to obtain benefits.
However, obtaining New Jersey workers’ comp benefits is not always straightforward. Often, an employer or their workers’ compensation insurer disputes an employee’s claim for benefits, either by claiming the injury was not work-related or contesting the seriousness of the worker’s injuries.
There are several potential workers’ comp benefits available to a worker who qualifies.
Medical benefits cover the “necessary and reasonable medical treatment, prescriptions, and hospitalization services related to the work injury.” The general legal framework is that the employer “controls” medical treatment. This means that the employer has the right to designate the medical provider. The employer will have to authorize recommended medical treatment that is related to the work-related injury. However, in the case of an emergency or if an employer refuses to provide medical care, a worker can choose their own provider.
Temporary Total Disability Benefits
Workers who miss more than seven days of work due to an injury are eligible for temporary total disability (TTD) benefits. TTD benefits equal 70% of the worker’s average weekly wage, subject to a maximum. TTD benefits end once the worker returns to work or reaches maximum medical improvement (MMI).
Permanent Partial Disability Benefits
Employees whose injury affects only a certain part of the body can obtain permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits. The amount of PPD benefits depends on the part of the body affected.
Permanent Total Disability Benefits
If a worker cannot return to work in any capacity due to their injuries, they can obtain permanent total disability (PTD) benefits. PTD benefits equal 70% of the average weekly wage, subject to a maximum. PTD benefits initially last for 450 weeks; however, if the worker is unable to work at the end of that period, they can continue to receive benefits.
Talk to a Skilled Workers’ Compensation Attorney Today
At Petro Cohen, P.C., we understand how difficult it can be to get the compensation you need after a work injury. We know how to solve problems and get results for our clients.
Petro Cohen has been consistently recognized as one of New Jersey’s leading firms in the area of Workers’ Compensation. Our firm has received the highest rating from Martindale-Hubbell and received consistent recognition from Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, and Avvo.
In addition to the firm’s stellar reputation, the Workers’ Compensation department head, Frank Petro, is respected locally, regionally, and nationally as a leading attorney in this specialized field.
You can trust that you are in good hands with Petro Cohen and that we will work hard for you to ensure you receive the medical treatment you need and the compensation you justly deserve.
Call Petro Cohen, P.C. today at 888-675-76-7 or contact us online for a free, no-obligation consultation. You’ve worked hard. Now let us work hard for you.