Cuts and lacerations caused by workplace activity are often experienced and infrequently discussed.
For example, in 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, private industry had 89,730 reported cases of cuts, lacerations, or punctures that resulted in days away from work. Manufacturing alone had 15,380 cases.
These numbers are substantial but they likely do not factor in minor wounds workers experience regularly. Under OSHA standards, employers must only report cuts, lacerations, and punctures if an employee’s wounds require more than first-aid attention.
Cuts and lacerations are typically not life-threatening (although they certainly can be), but there is still good reason for employers to promote prevention techniques.
First, cuts, lacerations, and punctures can be expensive. A single laceration can cost an employer thousands in direct and indirect costs, dramatically affecting a company’s profitability. Employers can see just how much occupational injuries can impact their bottom line by using OSHA’s online worksheet.
Further, each time an employer reports an injury, it can affect a company’s Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR). TRIR is a formula that measures the number of work-related injuries per 100 full-time workers during one year. A continuously high TRIR may result in discipline from OSHA.
Fortunately, implementing safety measures to reduce cuts, lacerations, and punctures at work is simple.
Cuts, Lacerations, and Punctures. What’s the Difference?
According to John Hopkins Medicine, “laceration” and “cut” both refer to skin wounds, and both injuries are normally caused by sharp objects like knives or broken glass. But, there is a slight difference between the two terms.
Lacerations, on the other hand, are usually more serious than a cut. Sometimes these wounds can cut deep into the skin and injure tendons and ligaments in severe incidents. Generally, lacerations will require medical attention, and often, stitches will be needed too.
Punctures are entirely different from cuts and lacerations. These wounds are usually narrower and deeper. Sharp pointy items like nails and tacks are typically the culprit of workplace puncture injuries. While all skin wounds can cause infection, puncture wounds are particularly susceptible and should be carefully cared for.
Always see a medical professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.
What Professions are at Risk?
In short, all professions are at risk when it comes to cuts, lacerations, and punctures. In fact, each profession has its own unique risks.
From small, innocent papercuts in an office to large, dangerous wounds on a construction site, and everything in between – employees can sustain skin wounds no matter their job.
However, certain industries see these injuries on a more frequent basis than others.
- Meatpacking and Butchering – Knives, slicers, grinders, and sharp bones can threaten the safety of meatpacking workers and butchers if safety measures are not taken into consideration.
- Culinary Arts – Similar to members of the meatpacking and butchering industry, cooks and restaurant workers regularly use sharp objects like knives, mixers, blenders, food processors, and other tools with blades.
- Construction – Frequent use of power tools and close proximity to hazards such as exposed nails, exposed sharp items, broken glass, and metal edges put construction workers at an increased risk of cuts and lacerations.
- Retail – Retail workers are commonly tasked with opening boxes of new merchandise. When stores provide inadequate tools or fail to train employees, serious hazards can form.
How Can I Prevent Cuts and Lacerations?
Cuts, lacerations, and punctures happen so much in the workplace that implementing new prevention strategies can be hugely beneficial.
- Provide proper training to employees – First and foremost, employers should provide proper training to their employees. Whether it’s a sales associate learning how to use a boxcutter or a construction worker learning how to use a new tool, proper training can significantly reduce the likelihood of cuts, lacerations, and punctures.
- Always use sharp knives and blades – Contrary to popular belief, dull knives and blades are more dangerous than sharp knives. Dull knives and saw blades pose more of a threat because they require the user to exert more force.
- Provide and wear proper personal protective equipment (PPE) – Safety glasses, gloves, and longsleeved clothing can all prevent cuts, lacerations, and punctures.
- Never leave sharp objects unattended – Leaving loose or exposed saw blades unattended can create a serious hazard. Always safely secure and store spare blades and use tools with self-retracting cutting blades.
- Keep a clean workstation – Keeping a tidy work area can prevent accidental contact with sharp items which will, in turn, reduce the risk of cuts, lacerations, and punctures.
- Tie up hair, refrain from wearing loose clothing, and wear breakaway lanyards – To prevent being pulled into machinery that can cause cuts, lacerations, and punctures, employees should always tie up their hair and refrain from wearing loose clothing or dangling accessories like jewelry. Also, it is safest for employers to provide break-away lanyards if employees wear them on the job.
Have You Sustained a Cut or Laceration on the Job? We Can Help.
More often than not cuts, lacerations, and punctures are easily treatable and will not prevent an employee from missing much, if any, work. For this reason, many who have experienced such wounds do not realize they have a viable workers’ compensation claim. Many employees are entitled to compensation and do not even know it.
If you’ve sustained a cut, laceration, puncture, or another similar injury you may be eligible for workers’ compensation.
Keches Law Group’s skilled and experienced workers’ compensation lawyers can assist you. Contact us today.