10 Common Causes of Deadly Workplace Injuries

No one expects injury as they head to another day at work, but many causes of serious injury and death are all too common in the modern workplace. Many of these are avoidable with care from workers and employers, but others often seem out of the blue or can build up over time and result in problems years down the line. Here are 10 of the most common workplace injuries that can lead to illness, injury, and even death.

10. Workplace Violence

Workplace Violence

Unfortunately, workplace violence remains a major problem in today’s busy business world. This #10 entry still accounts for 10 percent of all workplace fatalities, according to the CDC. Workplace violence includes dangerous one-off events, such as shootings, and the occasional office brawl or act of physical bullying. Employee engagement and risk-identification training are just some of the ways companies can protect workers. Stringent safety requirements, including badged entry and security checkpoints, can only do so much. Protect yourself and your co-workers by identifying the potential causes of workplace violence and speaking up against bullying and threats at work.

9. Electrocution


Few employees handle live wires on a regular basis, but the prevalence of electricity in all of today’s modern workplaces makes the risk of electrocution very real for all workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration lists electrocution as one of its “fatal four” most deadly injuries for construction workers, accounting for 8.6 percent of worker deaths. Workers in all fields should learn to identify potential electrocution hazards, including loose wiring and faulty connections on office equipment, and should not attempt repairs for which they are untrained or unqualified.

8. Inhalation of Dangerous Substances

Inhalation of Dangerous Substances

Exposure to dangerous substances, including a variety of molds and allergens, causes thousands of illnesses and injuries each year. Minor dangers result in flu-like or seasonal allergy symptoms, but major risks include inhalation of seriously harmful materials including lead and asbestos. Identifying asbestos in the workplace and having it professionally removed is the only way to prevent potential harm and liability. Employees should request that companies regularly inspect for dangerous substances and work to reduce or eliminate many common causes of respiratory injuries in the workplace.

7. Vehicle Crashes

Vehicle Crashes

Anyone who steps outside at any time during their workday is at risk when it comes to vehicle crashes, not just those who work outdoors or repair roads for a living. Vehicle crashes accounted for 26 percent of all workplace deaths in 2015, according to the CDC. Frequent travelers and office workers who regularly move between locations are inevitably at risk on a regular basis. Drivers of all stripes are responsible for recognizing hazards on the roads. Professionals who work on the road, sidewalks and adjoining utility poles benefit from following road construction safety guidelines designed to minimize risk to both workers and drivers. Even so, a vehicle crash or pedestrian collision can lead to serious lifetime injuries and even death.

6. Falling Objects

Falling Objects

Falling objects rank six on the list due to how common they are and the severity of the injuries they cause. Since most injuries due to falling objects are head injuries, they can deliver severe concussions, cause blindness and even result in death. Many retail stores make the most of floor space by stocking heavy pallets of unopened merchandise above customers’ heads, and even offices often store heavy boxes well above shoulder height. This results in dangerous situations where forklifts and other devices that may offer limited line of sight are required to retrieve bulky and weighty objects during business hours. These heavy items can cause serious injury, and even smaller canisters and paper boxes can prove fatal when dropped from above.

5. Repetitive Motion Injuries

Many workers associate repetitive motion injuries with the stiffness they feel in their wrists and fingers after a long day seated at a keyboard, but even standing desks and active jobs can increase the risk of RMI, potentially leading to the development of varicose veins and carpal tunnel. Jobs that require the same set of motions repeated time and time again aren’t just limited to cubicles. Cashiers, dispatch operators and managers in almost any workplace are at risk for RMI. Taking time to get up and move around or alternately to sit and relax, every hour to two hours can dramatically reduce this risk. This makes the standard coffee break an essential part of good health at work.

4. Distracted Walking

Distracted Walking

The modern business professional often has a laptop case in one hand and a smart phone in the other wherever they go. Unfortunately, distracted walking ranks very high due to the number of injuries and amount of property damage caused whenever someone who isn’t paying attention travels face-first into other workers, brick walls or even open manholes. This seemingly preventable workplace injury is so common that many offices go out of their way to post signs reminding workers against distracted walking and some areas have instituted “no texting while walking” policies for pedestrians crossing the street.

3. Overexertion

Overexertion At Work

The phrase “working yourself to death” is more than a meme. For many, it’s the cause of much of their physical pain and mental stress. Overexertion ranks very high when it comes to injuries and even death in the workplace. It’s easy to do too much and push your boundaries beyond where you can safely go in the name of getting the job done. Far too often, this results in serious problems down the line. Proper training in how to lift and carry objects can only go so far, and pushing your muscles to the breaking point is a recipe for disaster. Training is a crucial part of helping employees work safely on the job, but most training doesn’t teach how to recognize the symptoms of overexertion. Hunker down with the top 10 simple tips to manage work pressure and give yourself needed breaks to stay in top shape and avoid death by overwork.

2. Slip, Trip and Fall

Slip, Trip and Fall

Unfortunately, virtually no work-space is safe from the dreaded slip, trip and fall category of workplace injuries. Slick sidewalks, recently mopped floors and newly installed hardwood are all culprits that can lead employees and customers alike on a one-way trip to the emergency room. These types of injuries are so common that many businesses purchase insurance for exactly this type of coverage. Posting signs and cleaning up spills as quickly as possible can help, but due to the numbers of distracted walkers out there, it may never be enough. Deaths are thankfully less common than nonfatal injuries. The nonfatal toll for this type of incident accounts for 27 percent of all injuries in the workplace, according to the CDC.

1. Hearing Loss

Hearing Loss

Even if slips, trips and falls are the biggest in-the-moment injury, the most common injury at work is hearing loss. This sinister injury commonly creeps up on workers who may have thought they were safe. Workplaces that involve loud noises, like airports and munitions testing areas, have stringent requirements for protecting worker hearing. Loss is often even more common in areas where loud noises come from others in the area, such as work attached to and occurring near construction sites or in areas where shipping and transport operations take place. What’s worse, a recent study cited by Harvard notes that hearing loss can increase the risk of death by as much as 39 percent. That makes this often slow and gradual injury one of the top killers in the workplace.

Bradley Robbins

Bradley Robbins is a tech, trade and travel writer with a lifetime of experience with North America, Europe and Japan. With over a decade of experience as a copywriter and blogger, "Scratchpad Brad" is back in the writing game after too many years in a cubicle slaving away as an overnight crisis expert. Catch him on Facebook or Twitter