Although the rate of work-related illness and injury in the U.S. has dropped by more than half in the last two decades, thanks to improvements in safety standards and health regulations, American workers still suffer more than 3 million workplace injuries and illnesses each year, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data just released for 2013. About 4,400 of those events were fatal with 178 work-related deaths occurring in Pennsylvania.

Many workplace injuries occur in unexpected settings. While the oil, gas and construction industries still account for the majority of work-related injuries, advocates note that healthcare workers endure a high rate of ergonomic injuries from having to lift patients. Workers in desk jobs, particularly those using a computer mouse or doing a lot of typing, are also susceptible to injury. Sprains, strains and carpal tunnel syndrome reported from these settings accounted for about one third of cases involving days away from work and took longer than the average injury to heal. Fast food workers are another group with high injury rates.

About 1.16 million cases reported in 2013 involved workers needing to take a day or more off from work to recuperate. The median number of days away from work per injury was eight days. The cost of workplace illness and injury is huge, approximately $250 billion a year, according to one estimate, which puts this category equal to cancer. Worker’s compensation covers less than one-fourth of these costs, leaving companies and taxpayers to foot the bill.

Victims of workplace injuries or illnesses have a right to compensation from their employers to cover the costs of medical treatment and rehabilitation if necessary. An attorney with expertise in this area can advocate on behalf of a victim to ensure that they get the compensation to which they are entitled for medical expenses and lost wages.

Source: MarketWatch, “Work is a dangerous place for millions of Americans,” Quentin Fottrell, March 21, 2015