Accidents at Work - Spinal Cord Injuries
The World Health Organisation recognises that a significant proportion of traumatic spinal cord injuries occur at work. In several studies, workplace accidents have been revealed as the third largest cause of spinal cord injury (after road collisions and sports injury). What do we know about workplace injuries, what are the outcomes – and what can employers and workers do to make work safer?
Spinal Cord Injuries at Work - What We Know
Global facts and figures for spinal cord injuries are quite scarce. Funding for studies is practically non-existent in developing countries, and in developed parts of the world, data is sporadic.
With the rate of change in industry, culture and economics, the factors that affect SCI change, too. Although studies are ongoing in broad causes of SCI, it could be time to collect new data on workplace injuries. But with that said, a number of reliable studies do exist - albeit exclusively from First World nations.
Australia was the first country to successfully deploy a national registry of SCI cases - ASCIR. The opt-in registry has been logging spinal cord injury incidence, circumstances and mechanisms, in order to provide valuable data on the root causes and inform prevention strategies.
A study based on ASCIR data, which ran from 1986 to 1997, offers one of the deepest insights into workplace spinal cord injury to date. The study found that work-related incidents accounted for 12% of all spinal cord injuries in Australia in that period.
Men aged 25 to 34 made up the highest proportion of people injured at work, most commonly through falls (not including vehicle-related injuries at work).
This echoes a 1985 study carried out in Canada, which found that workplace accidents predominantly affect men aged 20 to mid 50s, with the majority at the younger end of the spectrum. Spinal cord injuries that occur at work are more likely to be severe, and affect the thoracic region (T1 to T12 vertebrae) more frequently than other areas of the spine.
This means that paraplegia is the most common outcome of work-related SCI - however, cervical vertebrae injuries, especially C4 to C6, account for the next most significant number of injuries.
Post Injury: Claims and Outcomes
The data gathered by Australian researchers showed that only 64% of people who sustained spinal cord injuries at work received any form of compensation, and further studies revealed that up to 70% of people do not return to work after SCI.
Adapted home conversions can reach tens of thousands of pounds. Wheelchair accessible vehicles are generally far more expensive than cars without adaptations. Mobility aids can cost thousands. Care costs are a major ongoing expense. With no compensation or regular income, reliance on state benefits (which are widely reported, in the UK at least, to be woefully inadequate and controversial at best) can seriously impact quality of life.
Money is rarely the first concern after injury - rehabilitation comes first, and rightly so. But finances will become an important consideration before long. Knowing what your rights are after sustaining a spinal injury at work can be confusing - especially after rehabilitation.
Claims can feel like an added stress on top of everything else - but Aspire Law does things differently. We only work for people with spinal cord injuries, nobody else. We advocate, support and fund the charity Aspire, our sister organisation. SCI is our area of expertise - and we have real-world experience in the more intangible aspects of it.
We work for more than just compensation money - we work for the best possible outcomes for people post-injury.
Client Testimonial: David’s Story
Watch the video below to hear from David Foster, an Aspire Law client, about his experience. We helped David rebuild his life following a spinal cord injury caused by an accident at work, where David worked as a warehouse operative.
How Employers and Workers can Reduce Incidents
Falls account for a significant percentage of spinal cord injuries in the workplace - and are preventable.
Ultimately, the responsibility for employee safety is with employers. At a minimum, an employer should do the following:
● Risk asses work activities being undertaken
● Develop and provide employees with method statements – safe systems of work
● Train employees on any risks and the systems in place
● Avoid work at height wherever possible
● Continued maintenance
● Provide appropriate lighting (including emergency lighting)
● Maintain clean, tidy workspaces
● Even Flooring, free of trip hazards
● Ensure that fall risks are fenced, signposted and covered if possible
● Ensure that escalators, lifts and machines function safely, with stop controls
But it’s up to everyone at work to keep each other safe, by reporting danger and having good processes in place to deal with potential issues. If you see something unsafe - make sure you report it.
Need Advice on Spinal Cord Injury Claims?
Aspire Law is a specialist law firm, working for people with SCI. For information and spinal cord injury legal advice, get in touch: give us a call on 0800 030 20 40.