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Are musculoskeletal disorders compensable workplace injuries?


Some of our readers may have seen previous posts here about comparatively dramatic accidents. By their very nature, some work-related accidents are particularly shocking and attention-grabbing.

But, what about other types of workers' injuries, those that develop over time and may not even be immediately obvious to an observer? Can workers obtain compensation for sprains and strains, for example, or repetitive stress injuries? Before we answer, let's clarify what these injuries are and how they can occur.

These types of injuries fall within what are called "musculoskeletal disorders," or injuries impacting the nerves, tendons and ligaments, bones and muscles, and other soft tissues. Workers across the spectrum of industries may suffer these injuries, some risk factors for which include:

  • Exposure to vibration or extreme temperatures.
  • Working in awkward positions or in the same position for extended periods.
  • Using force or repetitive motions.

Construction workers are at particular risk of musculoskeletal disorders.

There are a number of measures that employers can take to help protect their employees. Providing well-designed tools, improved materials and protective equipment are important. Workers may also benefit from training on musculoskeletal disorders and appropriate stretching time.

As to the question of compensation for such injuries, this can be complex. Yes, workers' compensation may be available, although Social Security Disability benefits may also be an option, depending on the severity of the injuries involved in any given case. It is therefore important to review your injuries and discuss what strategies may prove the most successful in your case.

Source: State Building & Construction Trades Council of California, AFL-CIO, "Preventing Strains, Sprains, and Repetitive Motion Injuries," accessed on Sept. 26, 2015

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