Slips and falls sound insignificant. But they are both costly and deadly. Slip and fall accidents lead to more than one million emergency room visits every year. They are the leading cause of workers’ compensation claims, and they are the leading cause of occupational injuries for older workers.
It is important to educate yourself on slip and fall injuries, whether you are a low-ranking employee or a supervisor. Yet many people remain unaware of the injuries they can suffer. There’s a lot more than just a bruised shin.
Learn about the injuries and then develop a plan to prevent them. Here are the six most common injuries from a slip and fall.
Bruising and Cuts
Bruising and cuts are the most common injuries from slips and falls. Though they are common, they can be severe.
Bruising occurs when blood vessels beneath the skin rupture. They may become swollen or feel painful. This can impair an employee’s ability to stand or sit.
For people with hemophilia, bruising can be dangerous. Their blood cells may not be able to clot together, causing extended bleeding.
Some people mistake their bruises for hematomas. These are large collections of blood that require drainage and extensive time to heal.
Any cut can become infected. Complications from infected cuts include cellulitis and sepsis. These conditions require immediate medical intervention.
Employees with diabetes or who are immunocompromised are at high risks for infection. They should report any injuries to their doctor as soon as possible.
Any employee who receives slip and fall injuries should talk to an on-site medical professional. If they receive a cut, the wound should be cleaned and a dry bandage should be placed over it.
They should report to the company doctor the next day and keep an eye on their injuries. If their bruise or cut changes color or starts to hurt, they need to go to their personal doctor.
Every site with slip and fall risk should have a first-aid kit handy. The kit should have fresh bandages with disinfectant fluids.
Soft Tissue Injuries
Many people sprain or tear their ankle or wrist. Like cuts and bruises, these injuries are often seen as minor. But they can be dangerous.
Some people don’t notice that they tore a muscle until days after their fall. They may feel pain, or they may not.
An untreated muscle tear can impair a person’s mobility, even long-term. It may become difficult to perform tasks requiring fine motor skills, like typing on a keyboard.
Ligament and tendon tears are even more debilitating. A ligament connects bones to each other, while tendons connect bones to muscles. A ligament or tendon tear can prevent a person from walking or sitting.
An employee who tears any soft tissue should go home right away. They should rest the injured area for at least 24 hours. An ice pack should go on the site of the injury, attached to it with an elastic bandage.
As the employee is resting, they should keep the injured area over their heart. This helps with blood flow. The employee can take anti-inflammatory medication, but they should call their doctor if they have significant swelling.
To reduce the likelihood of soft tissue injuries, companies should require their employees to wear work shoes and gloves. These can insulate the wrists and ankles, preventing tears there.
When some people fall, they catch themselves on their knees or elbows. This keeps them from hitting their head, but this also damages their joints.
The knees contain several different bones and ligaments. The meniscus is a piece of cartilage that sits between the femur and tibia. If it tears, it can keep a person from using their leg.
Important ligaments include the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). An ACL injury severs the femur from the tibia. To let a person walk or apply pressure on their knee, they may need surgery.
Similar injuries can occur in the elbow. A fall can cause the joint to become dislocated. A dislocation can tear soft tissues and open up blood vessels, which can impair heart function.
An employee should not walk around with a joint injury. They should remain still while a doctor is summoned. Another employee should hold the joint up above the heart.
The treatment for minor joint damage is similar to a muscle sprain. The joint should rest for 24 hours and receive ice.
If an employee may have injured a major ligament like the ACL, they should go to the hospital right away. They may need surgery or extensive intervention.
In an environment with a high risk for joint damage, all employees should wear padding on their joints. Surfaces should be softer so direct blows to joints don’t cause damage.
A fall can damage a bone if sudden and extreme pressure is applied to it. A person may twist their arm or leg as they hit the ground, breaking a bone.
Even “minor” fractures are severe injuries. It is nearly impossible to apply pressure to a broken bone without sustaining extreme pain. A bone that heals incorrectly can keep a person from using their limb.
A fractured bone can tear the muscles and blood vessels around it. This can cause internal bleeding, which can prove deadly. Bone fractures that break the skin can cause external bleeding that opens the body to infection.
A skull fracture is very dangerous. It can occur whenever a person strikes their head on a hard floor. A fractured skull can cause bleeding in the brain or a leak in cerebral fluid, which can result in death.
An employee with a bone fracture should not be moved. If they feel extreme pain in a bone, they should remain still and an ambulance should be called for them.
An on-site medical professional should control bleeding until the ambulance arrives. The bone should not be set on-site. It may be set incorrectly or tear a blood vessel.
A bone fracture is a serious enough injury to elicit workers’ compensation. An employee who suffers a bone fracture from a fall should consider hiring a slip and fall lawyer. Their injury will keep them out of work and cause emotional distress, which are grounds for a claim or lawsuit.
Spinal Cord Injuries
The spinal cord can become injured in a fall in several different ways. A disk in the spine can slip or become herniated. A slipped or herniated disk causes extreme pain and prevents a person from moving their legs.
The vertebrae in the spine can fracture. This is a risk when a person falls directly onto their back. The spinal cord itself may not become damaged, but broken vertebrae require hospitalization and bed rest.
Many people think that a spinal cord injury will lead to paralysis. This may not be the case. But any damage to the cord itself will diminish mobility, especially if it occurs high up.
A spinal cord injury is a medical emergency. No one should move the employee, especially from their neck and up. Sudden movements can make an injury worse.
Once medical professionals have responded to the immediate emergency, the employee and their employer should talk. The employee may be unable to perform high levels of physical work for months.
They may require physical therapy so they can walk again. Terms should be negotiated so the employee has compensation while they recover.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
A traumatic brain injury is the single most significant injury a person can receive. Any blow to the head can cause one. Though they are rare in workplace slips and falls, they can occur.
A concussion occurs when the brain bounces around in the skull, damaging its cells. An injured person may become unable to focus, coordinate their body, or remember basic things.
A penetrative brain injury occurs when an object penetrates the head. This is very rare, but it is incredibly dangerous. Most people who suffer one die immediately or become permanently disabled.
A mild injury can cause a headache, confusion, and dizziness. Moderate or severe injuries result in unconsciousness, convulsions, and slurred speech.
The skin or bones do not have to break for a person to receive a brain injury. If a person shows signs of one, they should go to the hospital immediately. They should not move until paramedics arrive.
An injury to the brain must be assessed day by day. Employers should remain in touch with an employee’s family and provide them with compensation. They should take measures to keep another injury from happening again.
The Most Common Injuries From Slip and Fall Accidents
Slip and fall accidents can cause a number of devastating injuries. Bruises and cuts can lead to infections. Soft tissue injuries can impair a worker’s ability to perform basic actions.
Joint and bone fractures can reduce a worker’s mobility A spinal cord injury may induce paralysis and will cause a lengthy hospital stay. Many traumatic brain injuries result in permanent disability or death.
If you suffer a slip and fall injury, you need legal help. The Ivey Law Firm has more than 25 years of experience in personal injury. Contact us today.