Some California job injuries are an obvious result of employment. People get hurt by machinery or the mistake of a co-worker. There will be an incident report at their workplace and then a workers’ compensation claim. Other times, people start to notice symptoms but have no single incident that caused their malady. Instead, what they experience is cumulative trauma. Repeatedly engaging in the same job functions, including lifting, gripping, typing or twisting can slowly cause damage to the human body.
Cumulative trauma, also known as repetitive stress or repetitive motion disorders, can impact someone’s quality of life and ability to maintain a job. Certain careers have a stronger association with cumulative trauma than others. Who is most at risk of developing a cumulative trauma injury through employment?
Individuals working in the industrial sector often perform the same job function every few seconds for entire shifts. After years of performing the same tasks, they may develop cumulative trauma in their shoulders, arms, backs or legs.
Commercial drivers and warehouse workers
Operating heavy machinery or loading and unloading the trailers of semi-trucks are very demanding jobs. Warehouse workers may spend hours on forklifts every day gripping the controls and performing physical labor when not using machinery. Semi-truck drivers may also develop cumulative trauma from hours at the wheel and frequent loading and unloading responsibilities.
Restaurant and retail workers
Hourly workers in the retail sector may spend much of their day restocking or manually ringing up customers at a cash register. Restaurant workers may need to lift and carry heavy trays of food or spend hours preparing ingredients for the kitchen. They may be at risk of injuries to their hands, backs, shoulders and arms because of how they use their bodies at work.
While many people think of office workers as relatively safe from job injuries, cumulative trauma is a serious concern. Many office employees are at risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome from spending hours on the computer or the phone without a hands-free headset. They may also develop cumulative trauma to their backs or eyes due to a lack of ergonomic support and constant strain from staring at a screen or printed materials.
Workers seeking benefits for cumulative trauma generally need proof that they perform repetitive job functions that contribute to their diagnosis. Pursuing California workers’ compensation benefits could help those with cumulative trauma cover their treatment costs and avoid financial devastation if they must take a leave of absence to allow their bodies to heal.