How are Back Injuries at work handled?
Back injuries are listed among the most common injuries at the workplace by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. Some of the common workplace back related injuries are:
- Compressed nerves
- Slipped, herniated or protruding discs
- Broken vertebrae
- Lower back injuries due to overexertion
- Spinal cord damage
Common Reasons of Back Injury
A number of reasons can lead to back and spinal cord injuries. Sometimes, a single act can be enough to cause back pain but constant strain on muscles, vertebras or ligaments of the back are mostly the reason. Movements of repetitive nature like lifting, loading, pulling, pushing or improper sitting position can lead to a weakened or strained back. Back pain can be due to injuries to the spinal cord, ligaments or muscles because of following reasons:
- The human vertebrae are supported with fluid filled discs that not only separate and cushion each vertebra but act as shock absorbers. These discs may herniate or protrude as a result of a back injury. Without these discs, the vertebrae rub against each other resulting in inflammation of spinal nerves that causes severe pain.
- The spinal cord has ligaments of thick tissue around it which allows bending and twisting of the spine. In case of overextension of the spine, the ligaments stretch out of place or even tear away; this causes excruciating pain and distress.
- Muscles extending across the spinal column can tear, wrench or stretch out of place due to lifting, pushing and pulling heavy objects.
- There are hundreds of nerve endings in the spinal cord that are responsible for messaging between the body and brain. An injury to the spinal cord can damage the nerves which can cause paralysis or death.
What should be done in case of a Back Injury at Work?
Workers who suffer from injuries at work are entitled to worker’s compensation benefits. These benefits provide reimbursement for medical treatment, therapy bills, expenses of transport for treatment, out-of-pocket expenses, and almost more than a half of the lost wages.
The compensation process begins as soon as the employer is informed about the worker’s injury. The very first report is recorded on the DWC-1 form. Specific information about the injury like date, time and reason of the injury are recorded.
Once the injury is reported, a list of company-approved physicians is provided to the employee who now has to choose any one of them as their primary physician. The primary physician evaluates the severity of injuries and refers the injured to other specialists like podiatrists, orthopedists or chiropractors.
The worker is required to return to their job when his physician considers that he has reached Maximum Medical Improvement. A return to work form needs to be filled out by the employee.
In case the back injury is diagnosed to be a temporary partial disability, the worker may be capable of continuing with the previous job once he is recovered.
If the disability is permanent, the worker may return to work but he will have to quit his former duties. The employer should assign the disabled employee a position that assists the employee’s disability. If there isn’t such a position available, an employment elsewhere will have to be sought for.
In case of Permanent total disability, the worker will be incapable of performing the previous job and is never required to return.