Not every workplace injury is sudden or caused by a specific event. Sometimes, injuries sneak up on workers gradually and develop over time through the repetitive exposures or activities of their jobs. When an injury develops over time, it can be easily overlooked by the worker and employer. A few commonly overlooked work injuries include:
Hearing loss. According to a study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), hearing loss is prevalent in noise-exposed industries like construction, agriculture and forestry. Dangerous noise level exposure can damage a person’s eardrums, the bones in their ears or cause tinnitus. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), recurrent exposure to noise at 85 decibels or higher can cause hearing loss.
Lung problems. When workers are exposed to chemicals, dust, and smoke, their lungs breath in particles from the environment. Eventually, these hazardous particles can break down lung tissue and cause problems. For example, the agriculture industry in California employs nearly 20 percent of the nation’s farmers. Respiratory illnesses are prevalent in the agriculture industry due to breathing in dust, mold and chemicals.
Asthma and lung disease are prevalent in industries like mining, agriculture, manufacturing and construction.
Musculoskeletal injuries. Musculoskeletal injuries can occur from repetitive motion and overuse. For example, if your job requires you to lift or move heavy objects repeatedly, you could be susceptible to back injuries. Another common musculoskeletal injury is carpal tunnel syndrome. Occupations that involve repetitive wrist movements, such as cashiers, hairdressers and typists could cause carpal tunnel syndrome.
Generally, if you are repeating the same motion for your job, over time it could take a toll on your joints, causing inflammation, pain and even early arthritis.
Stress. Stress and anxiety are silent dangers in the workplace. Stress can wreak havoc on the human body by raising blood pressure and weakening the immune system, making it more susceptible to injury. Chronic stress could lead to depression and other psychiatric issues or even heart problems.
California does recognize “psychiatric injuries” in its labor code. However, a worker has to be employed for at least six months and able to prove that their psychiatric injury resulted predominately from work. If a worker has been a victim of a violent act or has had direct exposure to a violent act during the course of their employment, then they must prove that at least 35 to 40 percent of their injury resulted from work.