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Accumulating injuries in the workplace: The facts

Even normal daily activities can result in injuries over time, and the same is true when you go to work. Simple tasks, repetitive motions and exposure to toxins or chemicals may not seem harmful in small amounts, but when they add up over time, the reality is that even minor hazards can lead to serious injuries that emerge years after an initial exposure.

One of the most common injuries is caused by improper lifting. Bending at the knees is what you're supposed to do, because it takes the strain off the back. However, lifting incorrectly might not injure you initially. It could result in small strains that build up, eventually leading to your workplace injury claim.

Another activity that could result in an injury includes working at a desk. Poor posture from sitting in an office without ergonomic furniture puts strain on your joints and spine. This can result in headaches, neck aches and back aches, tendinitis, carpal tunnel and other serious injuries. Many of these injuries are preventable with just a few changes in a work environment, like moving a monitor up a few inches or purchasing ergonomic seating.

Does workers' compensation cover repetitive-motion injuries?

Yes, it should. Workers' compensation is designed to cover any injury that occurs in the workplace or because of work activities. For instance, if you type for five hours a day for work and develop carpal tunnel, it's reasonable to believe that there is a link between your job and injury. Therefore, your employer should encourage you to file a workers' compensation claim, so you can get medical care, go through physical therapy, or get surgery and eventually get back to work.

What about illnesses that develop over time?

For other illnesses and injuries, the link is sometimes not as obvious. For instance, if you develop cancer in your 60s and it's a form usually only seen because of exposure to toxins you haven't worked with in over a decade, you'll likely need to show a length of time when you were exposed to those chemicals and potentially evidence that this illness takes several years or longer to develop.

Whether you have an occupational illness or injury, workers' compensation is supposed to be there for you. You can speak with your employer about making a claim. If you can't get him or her to file one, then you may need to look into other legal options.

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