What Qualifies as a Workplace Injury?

Workplace injuries can be especially worrisome and terrifying. Depending on the workplace, they have the potential to cause severe damage and put employees out of work for a long time to come. If you have an injury or illness that you believe is work-related, it’s essential to understand what qualifies as a workplace injury, so you know what sources of compensation are available to you.

Do You Have a Workplace Injury?

According to California workers’ compensation law, an injury or illness is work-related if it occurs during activities that benefited the employer. Generally, there are three categories of workplace injuries:

Single Accident Injuries

This is the most common category of workplace injuries because of all the possible workplace dangers. These types of accidents include:

  • Tripping over debris in the walkway
  • Falling from heights
  • Being struck by falling material
  • Caught between accidents
  • Motor vehicle collisions
  • Fires and explosions

Any one of these types of accidents could lead to catastrophic injuries that could render a worker unable to perform their job for months or even years.

Repetitive Strain Injuries

Also known as repetitive stress injuries, these injuries result from repeatedly performing the same task for days, months, or even years. The repetitiveness of these tasks can gradually break down muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other soft tissues. Even simple, low-impact tasks such as typing can negatively impact the hands, wrists, and forearms. Symptoms of repetitive strain injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, include:

  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Throbbing
  • Numbness

Toxic Exposure

Many workplaces require the use of potentially hazardous materials. Whether it’s benzene used to manufacture products like plastics, rubber, and detergents or asbestos fibers used to increase a product’s heat resistance, inhalation, ingestion, or skin absorption of hazardous materials may result in a host of severe conditions. Because the exposure to these substances occurred in the workplace, the resulting injuries are considered workplace injuries.

Could a Non-Work-Related Injury Happen in the Workplace?

Yes, there are many situations in which an incident wouldn’t be defined as work-related, such as if:

  • At the time of the initial incident, an employee was in the work environment as a member of the general public and not as an employee. For example, you work in the grocery store, but you come back to work after your shift and are shopping as a customer when you slip and fall down.
  • The injury results from voluntary participation in a wellness program or a recreational, fitness, or medical activity such as blood donation, flu shot, physical examination, or exercise class. For instance, you voluntarily receive an annual flu shot at work through an employee wellness program and have a severe allergic reaction to it. However, there may be exception if the activity was on the employers premises and wellness program would be benefiting the employer.
  • The injury arose strictly because of an employee doing personal tasks (unrelated to their employment) at the workplace outside of the employee’s assigned working hours. For example, suppose you came to your place of employment to give your co-worker a ride home after their shift and suffered an injury on the premises. In that case, your injury is not a workplace injury.

If you are unsure if your injury counts as a workplace injury or illness or you are having trouble with a workers’ compensation claim, be sure to contact an experienced attorney in your area who can help.