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Georgia Workers Compensation Issues | The Parian Law Firm LLC | Carrollton GA

Posted on - Tuesday, July 21, 2015 under Workers Compensation

Current Workers’ Compensation Issues
According to the 23rd annual AFL-CIO report, more than 3.8 million workers suffered from work-related injuries and illnesses in 2012. Despite how shocking the 3.8 million figure may seem, the union claimed that the number of work-relates injuries were underreported and could be as high as 11.4 million affected employees. Occupations with the highest fatal work injury rates in 2013 (total fatal work injuries were 4,405) were logging workers (59), fishing workers (27), flight engineers (63), roofers (69), refuse collectors (33), miners (16), drivers (748), agricultural managers (220), electrical power line repairers (27), and construction workers (215).

Motor vehicle-related incidents are consistently the leading cause of work-related fatalities in the United States. About 36% of occupational fatalities reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics are associated with motor vehicles.

Though labor jobs are widely considered the most unsafe jobs in America, research is showing that office jobs may be just as dangerous in their own ways. It’s possible that the future of workers’ compensation will deal with the “sitting disease.”

Future Workers’ Compensation Issues: Death by Office

It’s old news that office jobs can be mentally draining and emotionally stressful, but recent studies are showing that sitting at your desk for eight hours is also physically taxing. If you’re like the 40 million North Americans working in a cubicle, you’re sitting down engaging in a few small movement tasks all day – emailing, calling, maybe rolling your sliding-chair to the copy machine. Eight hours of this sedentary lifestyle has been shown to increase risk of obesity, diabetes, earlier mortality, cancer (breast and colon in particular), a fatter bottom, and heart disease. The American Medical Association (AMA), at its 2013 annual meeting, adopted policy recognizing potential risks of prolonged sitting. “Prolonged sitting, particularly in work settings, can cause health problems and encouraging workplaces to offer employees alternatives to sitting all day will help to create a healthier workforce,” said AMA board member Patrice Harris, M.D.

The ‘Sitting Disease’

The one-size-fits-all cubicles and furniture at your office also increases potential for injury. Sitting improperly raises the risk of musculoskeletal conditions that could lead to pain in the back, neck, shoulders, wrists, and legs. Yet another symptom of the eight-hour office day is eye strain, the number one complaint of computer users. Eye strain affects an estimated 90 percent of computer users who work more than three hours a day on the computer. The National Eye Institute released data in 2009 showing a 66 percent increase in the prevalence of myopia in the 25 years since the advent of the personal computer. In order to avoid Visual Fatigue Syndrome, caused by focusing on objects one to three feet away for extended periods of time, it is important to let your eyes rest, free from staring at a computer, every hour.

Workers’ Compensation for Office-Caused Injury

Given that these very serious injuries are caused in the workplace, one must wonder if he can receive workers’ compensation after sustaining one, or more, of the aforementioned injuries. Generally, a workers’ compensation claimant would need to establish both medical and legal causation in order to prove an injury compensable. For medical causation, the claimant must prove that the working environment, not natural progression or degeneration, caused the injury or onset of disease. Though the standard for how strongly the work environment and injury or disease are connected varies among states, an expert witness can use any available medical studies to argue for medical causation. To establish legal causation, the claimant must prove that the exertion of work is greater than the exertion outside of work. That is to say, the injured party must prove that the amount of strain she puts on her eyes at work (from sitting in front of a computer for 8 hours), for example, is greater than the strain she would put on her eyes outside of work.

Make Time for Personal Health

Now that we are practically married to our cellphones, laptops, and ipads, the affects of an office job is not limited to just inside office. We’re staring at screens and sitting at desks more than ever. Even though the goal is to increase productivity by bringing our work home, it does just the opposite, all the while furthering the office-caused injuries. Leslie Perlow, Harvard business professor and author of Sleeping With Your Smartphone: How to Break the 24/7 Habit and Change the Way You Work, says we are trapped in a “cycle of responsiveness where we believe that every email, every text, must be answered at that very moment. That doesn’t prioritize the work but rather treats everything with equal weight and importance.” Studies have shown that maintaining separation between the workplace and personal life is key not only to long-term success, but also to personal health. If we can give ourselves the time to relax and visit the gym routinely, we can diminish some of the office’s negative affects. Our bodies need a break from sitting just as much as our minds need a break from working.

Establish a Healthier Work Culture

In addition to exercising outside of work hours, it is worth talking to your boss about taking steps toward establishing a healthier work culture. Take activity breaks every couple of hours; take calls while walking; hold walk-and-talk meetings; visit your co-worker’s office instead of calling across the hall. If possible, sit on an exercise ball. Or even better, get a desk-treadmill and walk while you work.

Guest Blog: Byron L. Warnken, Warnken, LLC and MDCompLaw

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