The office is the classic American workplace. Whether it’s the bureaucratic cubicle arrangement or an open office plan, the office is seen as a low-risk environment in which to work.

Sure, job stress may be high in some businesses, but the workplace itself isn’t going to hurt you, right?

Wrong. If you work in an office, you’re spending one-third of your life in that environment. Because your workplace seems to be hazard-free, you soon stop being attentive to safety issues. The typical office job involves a limited range of movement during the course of the day. A sedentary life makes you ill-prepared to react when you do need to exert yourself, thus deepening the risk of an injury when you lift or carry objects, walk up stairs, stretch, or bend.

Even worse, the building where you work may be dangerous to your health. Almost all offices in the United States are closed environments, where ventilation systems-rather than open windows-provide air. Over time, contaminating materials in this closed environment can affect the health of every employee. Furniture polish, carpet adhesives, and cleaning solvents all contain potentially dangerous chemicals that can build up over time in recycled air.

While the day-to-day risks may be greater for construction workers or miners than for office workers, the vastly greater number of people employed in offices in the United States means that more workplace injuries occur in “safe” offices than almost anywhere else.

What Workers’ Compensation Can-And Can’t-Do For You

Under the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law, benefits are available to any employee following a workplace accident or occupational disease. It does not matter if the worker herself, a coworker, or the business owner may have been at fault in causing the injury. Under state law, in exchange for guaranteed compensation for workplace injuries, all workers lose their rights to sue their employers or coworkers for any negligent acts that may have harmed them.

The benefits you get from workers’ compensation in Pennsylvania can be significantly less than the recovery you might have earned from a comparable Pennsylvania personal injury lawsuit. Workers’ comp has no provision to compensate you for pain and suffering your might endure. While you are too disabled to work, you will only collect about two-thirds of the amount you would have earned in wages.

If your injury is the result of a third party, it is possible that a personal injury lawsuit might be available to get you expanded compensation. For instance, if you fall down a flight of stairs because a contractor recently did a poor carpet installation, that contractor may be legally liable for your injuries. The precise circumstances of your case will determine whether this remedy is available to you. Your Pennsylvania injury attorney can advise you if your situation would allow a lawsuit recovery.

Pennsylvania Office Injuries To Watch Out For

Office workers tend to be exposed to a different range of hazards than workers in other occupations. Nevertheless, we have learned that anybody can be a victim of any type of injury. You should not relax your guard against any possible source of workplace harm, even though our clients who work in offices most often have the following complaints:

  • Auto accidents. If you are injured while commuting to and from work, workers’ compensation does not cover you. However, if you are driving as part of an official job requirement-such as driving to an offsite meeting, or traveling on a sales call, or on a special training program outside your home city-then a motor vehicle accident can be covered. By one estimate, highway accidents accounted for 4.3 percent of all workplace injuries in 2009, with a total economic loss to business valued at $2.18 billion. Vehicle accidents are also a top cause of workplace fatalities. Remember, workers’ compensation can cover your injuries from an on-the-job auto accident even if you are at fault for the crash.
  • Joint and muscle damage. Back pain is the most common of the bone, muscle, and joint injuries that afflict office workers. A sedentary job can cause spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal channel) and worsen arthritis. One source puts the blame squarely on a defective office work environment, saying, “If your employees mainly work in an office, immobility and a bad desk setup are the biggest threats to developing back pain.” Other sources of joint, bone, and muscle damage include objects falling from high shelves, lifting and carrying objects, colliding with filing cabinets or furniture, and injuries sustained while bending, climbing, or reaching.
  • Lifting injuries. Lifting and carrying heavy items-such as cases of documents or papers-is an inherent part of the job for millions of office workers. The 2010 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index reports that overexertion, including lifting injuries, caused $13.4 billion in U.S. workers’ compensation claims. An employee can damage his back, neck, and shoulders while lifting even small, light loads if he uses poor lifting techniques. Improper lifting causes the majority of workplace back injuries.
  • Repetitive stress. Due to the repetitive nature of office tasks, many office workers sustain repetitive trauma injuries, in which the frequent use of the same muscle motions inflames nerves and muscles, causing great pain. Hours spent typing at computer workstations can strain parts of the upper body, hands, wrists, and arms. One recent study found signs of repetitive strain injuries in two-thirds of office workers, with carpal tunnel injuries being the most disabling.
  • Toxic buildings. The closed circulation systems in most office buildings can continuously expose workers to volatile organic compounds and microorganisms in the air. Over time, this can lead to acute poisoning or chronic illness-a pattern often termed “sick building syndrome.” Two forms of occupational illness for office workers deserve special mention here. Legionella bacteria in ventilation systems cause Legionnaires’ disease, a potentially fatal pneumonia; in less severe cases, this infection is called Pontiac fever and Lochgoilhead fever. Mycosis is an infection caused by fungi or mold; the moist environments of air ducts in office building can harbor many varieties of mold, which can trigger allergies, asthma, or organic poisoning.
  • Trip injuries. Falls are the most frequent workplace injury in an office, making up over a third of all serious accidents on the job. The majority of workplace fall accidents begin with tripping over something: computer cables or power cords, trash baskets, chairs, or loose carpeting. A fall can cause severe injuries to the back or head. Fractured bones and sprained joints are common results, and a trip on stairs can easily become a fatal injury.

Getting Help From The Bulldog Lawyers

For over two decades, the Pennsylvania Worker’s Compensation of Larry Levin and Jay Shor has been fighting for the rights of all employees to get fair recoveries when they are injured at work. From our offices located in Philadelphia, Reading, and Harrisburg, we can provide legal advice to any Pennsylvania worker whose benefits are delayed, denied, or terminated too early. Call us today at 866-462-8553 to learn how we can help your case.