Workers’ Compensation for Bending or Lifting Injuries
Bending down to lift objects puts stress and strain on your hips, knees, back, elbows, and shoulders. If moving objects from one place to another is a part of your job, your employer should provide training and safety equipment to ensure that you keep your body safe from harm. Despite precautions, either of the following two scenarios may happen:
- You may get hurt at work while bending or lifting
- After months or years of bending or lifting at work, you might discover that you have become seriously injured over time
In either case, you may face the following prospects:
- You need medical treatment, which may include prescriptions, doctor visits, physical therapy, and/or surgery
- You require time off from work to rest and heal
Who is Most At-Risk?
Certain industries and professions lead the pack when it comes to bending or lifting injuries. Workers most at-risk of hurting their shoulders, backs, hips, and knees include:
- Construction workers
- Delivery workers
- Farmers and agricultural workers
- Home health aides
- Janitors and maintenance staff
- Materials handlers
- Nurses and other health care workers
- Professional movers
- Retail workers
- Warehouse workers
Repetitive stress injuries, especially those to the back, hips, and knees, can lead to life-long mobility issues.
Age Increases the Risk of Injury
Many people have temporarily hurt their neck or back at one time or another because they tried to lift something that was too heavy, or they lifted an object in the wrong way. The younger you are, the faster you recover. If you are over 40 years old, your chances of experiencing a bending or lifting injury increases for the following reasons:
- Muscles and ligaments become less flexible
- Discs that act as cushions between spinal bones become more brittle
- Old injuries from the past develop arthritis
Age may be considered a pre-existing condition. If you suffer a bending or lifting injury at work, your employer or their insurance company may attempt to deny your claim due to a pre-existing condition. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can make it easier for you to obtain the maximum benefits to which you are entitled by law.
Reasons Why Employers Deny Claims for Bending or Lifting Injuries
There are several reasons why employers deny claims for bending or lifting injuries, including the following:
- The injury did not occur at work
- The worker did not file an accident report prior to the deadline
- The accident report was inconsistent with medical records
- Alcohol or illegal drugs were detected in the worker’s system
- The worker had a pre-existing condition
If there were no witnesses to the accident, it might be difficult for a worker to prove the accident happened at work. That is why it is so important to report an accident as soon it happens, if possible. Also, in the state of Pennsylvania, workers risk losing retroactive wage loss benefits if they fail to report their injuries within 21 days. Eligibility for benefits may be lost entirely if the accident report is not filed within 120 days of the accident.
It is also imperative that an injured worker try to remember all the facts about what happened, keeping detailed notes if possible, and making sure the accident report lines up with everything that is stated in medical exam records. For example, if a worker tells their supervisor that the injury happened one way and then provides a different version of events to an examining physician, the employer may attempt to deny the claim. If a medical exam determines that a worker was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the incident, the worker may not be eligible for benefits.
Pre-Existing Conditions and Bending or Lifting Injuries
Workers’ compensation may be available even the worker had a pre-existing condition. There are two basic scenarios in which pre-existing conditions may be covered by workers’ compensation:
- A work-related injury aggravates a pre-existing condition, making the worker unable to perform their duties
- A pre-existing condition makes a work-related injury or illness worse
Bending or lifting injuries are often cumulative. In Pennsylvania, workers do not need to point to a specific accident to obtain workers’ compensation benefits if they can prove that the injury or illness is directly related to employment. For example, a bending or lifting injury may be compensable if it is the result of the cumulative effect of repetitive stress or trauma caused by work duties This is common among nurses and other health care workers who are required to repeatedly lift patients and bend down to reach medicines in rolling carts and drawers. In the beginning of their careers, nurses may be able to endure the strain of lifting. Over time, the pain may get worse.
The courts of Pennsylvania have approved compensation for injuries characterized as work-related aggravations of pre-existing conditions, including pre-existing foot problems, arthritic knees, back problems, and pulmonary disorders.
In some states, workers must prove that their injury meets the actual risk test. For example, a utility supervisor in Virginia injured his back while bending down to mark the location of underground utility lines. He heard something pop in his back when he twisted to get up. His injury was severe, and he could not work for two months. However, the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission upheld his employer’s decision to deny his claim for medical and temporary total disability compensation on the grounds that the utility worker could not prove that his injury rose from an actual risk of his employment. The worker had done this task many times before without injury.
Although Pennsylvania law does not require workers to prove actual risk, injured workers should not assume that their employer or employer’s insurance company will automatically approve their workers’ compensation claim. Enlisting the help of a reputable workers’ compensation attorney increases the chances that a claim will be accepted and that the benefits obtained will be the maximum allowed by law.
Dangers of Bending or Lifting
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 300,000 injury cases of sprains, strains, and tears on the job were reported in 2018. Bending or lifting heavy objects all day long can easily lead to overexertion and result in strains.
The most common strain injuries derived from excessive bending or lifting affect the back and legs. Undue stress on the tendons, muscles, and ligaments in your back could lead to:
- Bulging or herniated discs
- Chronic back pain
- Degenerative disc disease
- Lower back strains
- Spinal cord damage, leading to partial or permanent paralysis
Symptoms that make it difficult or impossible to continue working include:
- Pain that is either localized or widespread
- Limited movement
- Aching and stiffness
- Disturbed sleep and fatigue
- Twitching or burning muscles
As these symptoms persist over time, they may trigger other problems, including a lack of concentration and depression. Research indicates that workers who suffer from musculoskeletal disorders are at a higher risk for depression.
How are Bending or Lifting Injuries Diagnosed?
Bending or lifting may cause lumbar strain because the lower back supports the weight of the upper body. Lumbar strain occurs when muscle fibers are stretched or torn away from ligaments. This can happen from gradual overuse over time or a sudden movement.
A general practitioner can diagnose lumbar strain by completing a physical exam. It is possible that the doctor will order an X-ray or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test. However, most doctors do not order tests unless the pain persists for more than six weeks. Recommended treatment may include rest and Ibuprofen or other pain relievers. Physical therapy may also be recommended, including stretching and exercises to strengthen abdominal muscles.
Preventing Bending or Lifting Injuries
Workers can take steps on their own to help prevent injury. First and foremost, workers should be realistic about how much they are capable of lifting. If you feel your job requires you to do more than you should, speak with your supervisor. Learn how to lift properly using the following guidelines:
- Spread your feet apart before lifting
- Stand as close as possible to the object
- Bend at your knees
- Hold the object close to your body near the waist
- Lift slowly and do not twist while bending or lifting
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has developed a formula for assessing the hazards of a given lifting situation. In general, NIOSH recommends avoiding loads heavier than 50 pounds. When a load is heavier than 50 pounds, the recommendation is to use two or more people to lift the load.
What Employers Can Do to Reduce Bending or Lifting Injuries
There are many ways employers can help reduce the risk of bending or lifting injuries, including the following:
- Provide mechanical means, such as forklifts, hand trucks, and conveyor belts to move heavy loads
- Allow workers to seek help from coworkers or work in teams when lifting objects heavier than 50 pounds
- Ask suppliers to make smaller, lighter containers with proper handles
- Provide training regarding proper lifting principles
- Use ladders or aerial lifts
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, companies reported significant reductions in bending or lifting injuries by placing pallets on lifts and eliminating all bending or lifting below waist height. Employers should also allow employees to take regular breaks and divide tasks into shorter segments to give their muscles enough time to rest.
Other Factors That Increase Injury Risk
In addition to the worker’s physical condition and the type of work they are required to do, there are environmental factors that can increase the risk of injury, including the following:
- Cold temperatures: Muscles are less flexible in lower temperatures, increasing the risk of pulls and strains.
- Hot temperatures: Heat can lead to dehydration and fatigue.
- Poor lighting or low visibility: It is easier to make a mistake while lifting or bending if you cannot see what you are doing.
To minimize the impact of environmental factors, workers should wear appropriate clothing, drink lots of water, and be aware of hazards. Employers should maintain adequate lighting and adjust work schedules when possible to avoid exposing employees to extreme weather conditions. Lifting, pushing, and pulling activities are often inevitable at work. Machines can help, but sometimes workers are required to use their own strength.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Assist Employees Injured by Repetitive Bending or Lifting
If you sustained a workplace injury, an experienced Philadelphia workers’ compensation lawyer at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C can help. We understand the risks of bending or lifting injuries. For a free consultation, call us today at 888-PITT-LAW or fill out our online contact form.
Located in Philadelphia, Bensalem, Lansdowne, and Reading, we represent injured workers in Berks County, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County, and throughout Pennsylvania, including those in the communities of Abington, Ambler, Ardmore, Bala Cynwyd, Bensalem, Clifton Heights, Crum Lynne, Darby, Downingtown, Doylestown, Drexel Hill, Essington, Folcroft, Glenolden, Haverford, Havertown, Holmes, Kutztown, Lansdowne, Media, Merion Station, Morton, Narberth, Norristown, Norwood, Philadelphia, Prospect Park, Quakertown, Reading, Roxborough, Sharon Hill, Upper Darby, West Chester, and Wynnewood.