What is an occupational injury? Definition and examples

Occupational Injury image 1
Occupational injuries are more common in the construction and manufacturing sectors in the advanced economies.

An occupational injury is a personal injury, disease, or death that an employee suffers in the workplace. It is the result of an occupational accident. Put simply; it is an injury at work or resulting from working.

An occupational injury is not the same as an occupational disease. Occupational diseases are the result of exposure to risk factors arising from work activity over time.

The most common injuries involve damage to the worker’s hands, head, lungs, eyes, and skeleton. Spine and skin injuries are also common.

The OECD has the following definition of the term:

“An Occupational injury is any personal injury, disease or death resulting from an occupational accident; an occupational injury is therefore distinct from an occupational disease, which is a disease contracted as a result of an exposure over a period of time to risk factors arising from work activity.”

Some people confuse the terms occupational disease and injury because they often appear together. Occupational diseases happen over a specific period or a series of repetitive actions while occupational injuries are the result of one particular incident.

Occupational injury and occupational hazards

Injuries may be the result of exposure to chemical, biological psychosocial, and physical hazards. In other words, occupational hazards.

Exposure to noise, animal or insect bites, temperature, and aerosols, for example, are occupational hazards. Exposure to blood-borne pathogens, hazardous chemicals, occupational burnout, and radiation are also in this category.

Dangerous jobs
In some types of jobs, occupational injuries are much more common.

Causes and incidence of occupational injuries

There are considerably fewer workplace injuries today than in the past. While safety measures are now more widespread, injuries may still happen due to manual handling, poor ergonomics, and exposure to general hazards. Failure or misuse of equipment and poor safety training are also common causes.

Trips, falls, and slips are the most common causes of injury. The most common contributing factor to occupational injury is advancing age.

Wikipedia quotes a study that estimated there were about 350,000 workplace deaths globally each year. The same researchers also estimated that there were over 270 million workplace injuries each year.

Globally, forestry, fishing, and farming have the highest number of registered occupational injuries worldwide. In the advanced economies, manufacturing and construction have the greatest number of wrist, hand, and spine injuries. The term ‘advanced economy’ means ‘developed nation,’ such as the USA, UK, Germany, France, and Japan.

Implementing comprehensive safety training programs and regular equipment inspections are essential strategies in reducing the occurrence of occupational injuries.

Advancements in wearable technology, such as smart safety vests and helmets, are increasingly being utilized in industries like construction and manufacturing to monitor workers’ health and safety in real-time, thereby helping to prevent occupational injuries.

United States

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were about 2.8 non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2017 reported by private industry employers. This figure was 45,800 lower than in 2016.

United Kingdom

The UK’s Health and Safety Executive reported that in 2017/18, there were 555,000 injuries at work. Occupational injuries and diseases resulted in 30.7 million working days loss.

Economic Impact of an occupational injury

  • Impact on workers

Occupational injuries can significantly affect a worker’s financial situation, particularly if their job provides limited security or compensation.

In the advanced economies, as well as many emerging ones, employers are often liable for substantial sums if a worker sustains an occupational injury.

Additionally, it’s important to consider the potential long-term impact of an injury, especially if it is permanent or disabling, on an employee’s career and promotion prospects.

  • Impact on employers

Sometimes, the employer also suffers economic consequences. These can include increased insurance premiums, costs associated with training replacement staff, potential legal fees, and lost productivity.

There might also be indirect costs like diminished employee morale and damage to the company’s brand image, which can affect future business opportunities and employee retention.

Video – What is an Occupational Injury?

This educational video, from our sister channel on YouTube – Marketing Business Network, explains what an ‘Occupational Injury’ is using simple and easy-to-understand language and examples.