Written By: Dr. Jassin Jouria
A 29-year-old female is brought to the Emergency Room after accidentally getting hit in the back by a rolling assembly cart. She works in a factory assembly line where she takes heavy metal parts and begins assembly at her station. One of the carts broke off the track and got to her station faster than usual. She was not looking when the cart slammed into her lower back causing her to collapse. In the ER, she complained of severe pain in her lower back and numbness and tingling in both of her legs. The Emergency Room physician was concerned about the possibility of spinal cord injury, and immediately ordered a CT scan of the lumbar spine.
Hit by heavy object injuries involve a worker being hit by a piece of equipment or object that’s swinging, rolling, or falling. No matter how vigilant you are at the workplace, accidents that lead to injuries might still occur. Most of these accidents fall under the category of “hit by an object.” For example, if an object or equipment falls off a shelf in storage space and injures a worker, or if a construction worker gets hit by building materials, it would be considered a hit by a heavy object.
Statistics about Hit by Heavy Object Injuries
According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration, about 75% of hits by heavy objects involve heavy equipment such as cranes or trucks. Workers in construction, manufacturing, firefighters, transportation employees, and agriculture are most at risk.
According to injury facts, there have been about 700 workplace deaths due to being hit by heavy object-related incidents every year, and thousands of injuries annually that involve days away from work.
Causes of Hit by Heavy Object
Hit by a heavy object in the workplace can originate from many sources. The most common causes of hit by a heavy object include:
- Accidental hits by heavy equipment, loader trucks, cranes, etc.
- Poorly stacked heavy equipment or materials that slip, fall, and slide.
- Flying, falling, swinging, and rolling materials and equipment.
- Poor housekeeping, such as equipment or tools left on the shelves or edges.
- Unmarked pipes or low beams at the site.
- Heavy objects leaning against posts or walls.
- Unusual work such as tree trimming, pruning, and demolition of buildings.
- Concrete construction while being constructed.
Measures to Reduce the Risk of Hit by Heavy Object
Enforce Hard Hats at Work Sites: This is most important, especially for workers in the construction industry. This industry often involves overhead work and any worker in this area should always wear hard hats. Workers should avoid using hard hats showing signs of tear and wear.
Ensure Workers are Visible: Employees working in high-risk areas such as construction sites or manufacturing plants should always stay visible at all times. This is especially important if they operate heavy equipment or machinery. Require workers who work in high-risk areas to wear reflective vests. They should remain visible even at night.
Inspect Tools and Equipment: It is crucial to inspect equipment and tools regularly. This is to make sure they are in proper working and safe condition. Avoid using tools that are not working properly. Examine protective components and guards to ensure they are in good condition. This will protect employees from moving parts.
Limit Access to Work Areas: Accidents will happen to employees who lack proper education on workplace safety protocols. It is important to enact a law that only trained and educated employees will be allowed access to the work area. Employees who are not aware of danger should not be allowed to the worksite.
Compensation Plan for Workers Hit by Heavy Object
Employees hit by heavy objects need to receive compensation for their injuries. All employees should be insured to receive medical attention after suffering from an injury. Employees should receive wage loss benefits when they miss work. This means that employees who fall victim should be able to report their cases immediately to the management. This should allow them to receive these benefits.
Common Injuries Caused by Heavy Object
Being hit by a heavy object at the workplace is a significant incident and might lead to serious consequences. Now we will discuss common injuries when hit by a heavy object.
- Brain Injuries: Brain injury result from an outside force or being hit by an object. Brain injuries can range from lacerations to life-threatening injuries. Life-threatening injuries can include skull fractures, bleeding around the brain, or bleeding inside the brain.
- Neck Injuries: Neck injury occurs when one or more neck muscles, tendons, or ligaments get injured. The most common neck injury is muscle spasms. In some instances, the injury can damage the neck bones and the spine. It can have life-changing consequences and can even lead to paralysis.
- Back Injuries: Back injuries are also common when hit by a heavy object. These injuries can lead to chronic back pain. It can be debilitating and limiting.
- Paralysis: Paralysis occurs when you can’t move certain parts of your body after being hit by a heavy object. It comes in many different forms and can be permanent or temporary.
- Shoulder Injuries: A shoulder injury is an injury to the soft tissues that give the joint range of stability or motion. A tear can occur in the muscles, labrum, or tendons.
- Disfigurement: Disfigurement usually occurs when an individual’s appearance spoils when hit by an object.
Being hit by a heavy object is one of the most dangerous incidents occurring at the workplace. Unfortunately, it happens regularly. Workers need to learn about safe work practices and employers need to have an emergency health service at the workplace.
When to See a Doctor?
Look out for some red flag signs when hit by a heavy object. These signs include:
- Injury to the head with unconsciousness, bleeding from the nose or ears, vomiting, or persistent headache
- Tingling, numbness, weakness, or inability to move any body part
- Persistent back pain not improving with pain relief
- Bowel or bladder issues
- Uncontrolled bleeding from any body part
You should also let your employer know about your injuries. The occupational health department will assess your injuries in detail. You will need the assessment reports for claiming any compensation.
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