Common Causes of Workers’ Comp Accidents
By Insurance Advisor Team
Common Causes of Workers’ Comp Accidents

Workers’ compensation is a crucial component of the employment landscape, providing support and protection to employees who suffer injuries or illnesses as a direct result of their jobs. Despite stringent safety regulations and preventive measures, accidents still occur, leading to workers’ comp claims. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) bifurcates the results of the data gathered in a particular timeframe into two categories: fatal injuries and non-fatal injuries. So, for example, as per the recent count of fatalities, there have been 5,486 fatal work injuries recorded in the United States for the year 2022. This is a 5.7 percent increase from the last census conducted in 2021.

With such a grasp of data, understanding the common causes of these accidents can help employers and employees alike in creating safer work environments. This article delves into the most prevalent causes of workers’ comp accidents, offering insights into how they can be mitigated or avoided altogether.

Top 7 causes of workplace accidents and their costs

1. Slips, Trips, and Falls

Slips, trips, and falls are predominant culprits behind workplace accidents across a broad spectrum of industries. These mishaps often arise from hazards such as wet floors, cluttered spaces, uneven walkways, and poor lighting conditions. While some incidents may lead to minor discomfort, others can cause significant harm, including fractures and head injuries.

Despite the attention that large-scale and dramatic workers’ compensation claims attract, it’s the common injuries like slips, trips, and falls that consistently impose the heaviest financial burdens on employers.

According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance, slips, trips, and falls constitute nearly a quarter of all workers’ comp claims, resulting in around 300,000 workplace injuries and almost 1,000 fatalities each year. The National Safety Council further highlights the financial impact, noting that the average claim costs employers $22,800. Beyond the direct costs, employers face additional financial strains from lost productivity, the necessity of overtime pay for employees filling in, and the expenses related to recruiting and training replacements during the recovery period. Moreover, the repercussions of a single claim can escalate, also increasing your company’s Experience Modification Rate (X-Mod) and affecting insurance premiums. Given these stark realities, prioritizing the reduction of these common yet avoidable incidents become imperative for businesses aiming to safeguard both their workforce and their financial health.

Prevention: For this, it is imperative to adopt basic preventive strategies like ensuring workspace cleanliness, promptly addressing spills, enhancing lighting, and equipping staff with anti-slip footwear.

2. Overexertion and Repetitive Stress Injuries

Overexertion injuries, triggered by activities such as lifting, pushing, pulling, or carrying heavy loads, play a major role in workplace-related harm. Similarly, repetitive stress injuries (RSIs), caused by continuous repetitive motions, can lead to severe conditions, including carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis. Notably, the average recovery time for a repetitive motion injury is 23 days, significantly surpassing the 9-day recovery period for other types of workplace injuries.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2020, musculoskeletal injuries, which comprises both overexertion and repetitive stress injuries, accounted for 30% of all workplace injuries that resulted in missed workdays, tallying up to 272,780 reported cases. The real figures could be higher as repetitive stress injuries are not always promptly diagnosed nor consistently linked to workplace activities.

Such injuries are notably prevalent across various work environments, from office settings where repetitive typing is common to manufacturing and manual labor positions requiring constant physical exertion.

Prevention: To mitigate the risk of these injuries, employers are advised to implement comprehensive training programs focusing on safe manual handling practices, conduct ergonomic assessments to ensure a safer work environment, and promote regular breaks to minimize the risk of overexertion and repetitive stress.

3. Machinery and Equipment Accidents

Accidents involving heavy machinery and equipment, prevalent in sectors like construction, manufacturing, and agriculture, can lead to severe, sometimes fatal, outcomes. Reflecting on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), injuries from interactions with objects and equipment rank as the third highest cause of occupational fatalities, and they also hold prominent positions in causing Days Away from Work, Job Restriction, or Transfer (DART) cases, and Days Away From Work (DAFW) cases. The year 2022 saw 738 fatalities attributed to such incidents, with the preceding year reporting 780,690 DART cases, which included 450,050 DAFW incidents. Moreover, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) attributes inadequate machine guarding as the root of around 18,000 annual incidents involving amputations, crush injuries, lacerations, and abrasions, in addition to 800 worker deaths.

Prevention: In 2019, fatalities were so prevalent that OSHA had to conclude that failure in machine guarding standards was one of the top ten most frequently cited violations that led to such mishaps.

Along with the absence of essential safety protocols, a blend of factors includes equipment malfunctions and human error as well.

A few critical steps can ensure protection and safety when these steps include:

  • All machinery undergoing regular, thorough maintenance,
  • Providing detailed and comprehensive training for all operators
  • Implementing the use of protective guards and safety systems.

These measures, when properly executed, can substantially reduce the likelihood of such hazardous incidents in the workplace.

Also ReadWhich are the best Profitable Business ideas for Married Couples?

4. Vehicle-Related Incidents

Vehicle-related incidents, which includes collisions, rollovers, and instances of being struck by moving vehicles, pose significant risks in environments heavily dependent on transportation, construction, and warehousing operations.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for the year 2020 highlights the gravity of the situation: 1,038 U.S. workers involved in motor vehicle operations on public roads succumbed to work-related crashes, accounting for 22% of all occupational fatalities that year. Within these tragic statistics, the Transportation and Warehousing sector bore the brunt, with 43% of the fatalities, followed by the Construction industry at 14%, Wholesale and Retail Trade at 9%, and Administrative, support, waste management, and remediation services at 6%.

Moreover, in 2021, work zone crashes—incidents occurring within or in proximity to work zones due to traffic-related activities—resulted in 954 deaths and 42,151 injuries. Of the fatalities, 468 occurred in construction zones, 403 in unspecified work zones, 66 in maintenance zones, and 17 in utility zones.

Prevention: To curb these alarming trends, it’s imperative to implement comprehensive preventive measures. These include rigorously enforcing traffic regulations on-site, conducting regular maintenance checks on vehicles, and delivering thorough safety training to both drivers and pedestrians within the workplace. Such strategies are vital for creating safer work environments and minimizing the occurrence of vehicle-related accidents.

5. Falls from Heights

In industries where tasks are carried out at elevated levels - such as construction, roofing, and window cleaning - the danger of falls from heights presents a significant risk. The absence of adequate fall protection, unstable work platforms, and human error stand out as the main factors leading to these perilous incidents.

Ranking just behind highway crashes and intentional harm by others, falls to lower levels are identified as the third most common cause of fatal accidents in the workplace. Furthermore, they rank fifth in incidents leading to Days Away from Work, Job Restriction, or Transfer (DART) and Days Away From Work (DAFW). The statistics are stark: in 2022, there were 700 fatalities, and the period of 2021-2022 saw 129,010 DART cases, which included 92,010 DAFW incidents.

An injury falls into this category when it meets the following criteria:

  • The injury results from the impact between the person and the injury source.
  • The injured individual’s movement causes the injury.
  • The movement and the impact force are propelled by gravity.
  • The contact point with the injury source is lower than the support surface of the person at the beginning of the fall.

Prevention: Adopting comprehensive safety protocols is essential to counteract the hazards of working at height. The installation of guardrails, safety nets, personal fall arrest systems, and thorough training on how to correctly use these safety measures can significantly reduce the incidence of falls from heights. Implementing these precautions creates a safer working environment for those operating at elevated levels.

6. Exposure to Harmful Substances or Environments

Employees working in sectors such as chemical manufacturing, healthcare, and construction frequently encounter hazardous substances or work under dangerous environmental conditions. These risks can span from exposure to toxic chemicals and radiation to extreme temperatures and significant noise levels.

In 2022, there was a 5.1% rise in incidents related to harmful substance exposure, culminating in 839 worker deaths. A notable part of this increase is attributed to unintentional overdoses, which constituted more than 60% of the fatalities in this category. Specifically focusing on environmental heat exposure, there were 43 fatalities in 2022, a rise from the 36 reported in 2021. This trend continued to rise, an 18.6% increase in 2022, escalating to 51 from 43.

Prevention: To combat these dangers, it’s essential to implement a variety of preventive strategies. These include the distribution of suitable personal protective equipment (PPE), the installation and maintenance of efficient ventilation systems, conducting regular health screenings for workers, and offering comprehensive training on the safe management of hazardous materials. Through these measures, the risk of illness or injury from exposure to harmful substances or environmental conditions can be significantly mitigated.

7. Violence and Harassment at Work

Workplace violence and harassment present significant challenges, causing both physical harm and emotional distress to employees. This can stem from interactions with co-workers, customers, or external parties. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that in 2020, over 20,000 private industry workers were subjected to non-fatal incidents of workplace violence, leading to considerable emotional or physical trauma. Such incidents often necessitate time away from work for recovery, thereby affecting workplace productivity. Notably, about 22% of those affected needed more than 31 days off to recuperate, with the majority of victims being women (73%) and individuals aged 25 to 54 (62%). The social assistance and healthcare sectors notably reported higher instances of workplace violence.

Furthermore, workplace violence can escalate to fatal outcomes. In 2020, workplace homicide claimed the lives of 392 U.S. workers, predominantly affecting men (81%) within the age bracket of 25 to 44 (44%). A closer look at the demographics reveals that Black (28%) and Hispanic (18%) workers were disproportionately affected, with most fatal incidents occurring in retail settings, including service counters and customer service positions.

Prevention: To mitigate these risks, employers must foster a workplace culture anchored in safety and respect. This involves enacting and enforcing clear policies against violence and harassment, providing comprehensive employee training, and establishing accessible mechanisms for reporting incidents and supporting victims. Through these measures, organizations can create a safer, more inclusive work environment for all employees.

Mitigation Strategies

Looking at the data and the kinds of accidents that lead to Workers’ Comp claims, we can discern the essential measures to be taken to prevent such casualties. We shall summarize the types of preventive measures into these categories:

  • Conducting Regular Risk Assessments
  • Providing Comprehensive Training
  • Encouraging Open Communication
  • Investing in Safety Equipment and Ergonomics
  • Implementing a Wellness Program


Workers’ comp accidents can have far-reaching effects on employees and employers alike, resulting in physical harm, financial strain, and reduced productivity. By understanding the common causes of these accidents, organizations can implement targeted strategies to prevent them, creating a safer and more productive work environment. Ultimately, the key to reducing workers’ comp claims lies in a proactive approach to workplace safety, emphasizing prevention, education, and continuous improvement.