What is an occupational illness or injury?

Unfortunately, occupational illnesses and injuries happen frequently in a variety of working environments. In fact, around 2.8 million workplace related injuries and illnesses were reported by employers in 2019 alone, according to the U.S.  Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What exactly constitutes as a workplace injury or illness? Workplace injuries result from an accident that occurred on the job. This is a one-time event that can be pinpointed with an exact date, time, and reason for injury. An occupational illness or disease is defined as long-term exposure that leads to chronic health problems. These instances don’t have an exact date that points to when the victim was exposed, but rather is measured in length of time. The following examples are only a handful of what an individual can expect out of either health-related outcomes:

  • Occupational Injury can include anything involving accidents such as slips and falls that result in broken bones, dislocation, and lacerations, projectiles that damage the eyes and face, or machinery pinch points that can amputate limbs.
  • Occupational Illness/Disease can include anything involving chronic issues such as repetitive motion that causes carpel tunnel syndrome, lung damage caused by pesticide exposure, or working in loud environments without the right ear protection leading to hearing loss.

Ultimately, both instances of occupational injury and illness may do enough damage to prevent the person suffering from them from ever re-entering into the workforce.

Hazardous conditions that turn into short-term or permanent health issues, like the above examples, are entirely preventable in most cases. Prevention requires knowledge, training, find and mitigate hazards, and use the right PPE. There’s a lot that goes into protecting employees from these dangers, and the majority of that responsibility sits on the employer’s shoulders.


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