There is always the chance of being injured while on the job. Workers compensation insurance is how employers protect their employees from any injury sustained while on the job. Naturally, some industries carry a higher degree of risk than others. For example, the common injuries incurred by office workers differ from common injuries sustained by security guards.
Workers compensation claims for security guards often fall into seven categories of on-the-job injuries. Being aware of these potential injury types can raise awareness of common job injury risks and how to prevent them.
1 – Slip and Fall
The most common Worker’s Compensation claim for security guards involves slips and falls. This includes falling to the same surface that the employee is on, or a fall to a lower level, such as down stairs.
Common injuries seen with this type of workers compensation claim includes injuries to both upper and lower extremities, back and spine injuries, neck and head injury, breaks and fractures, bruises, sprains and dislocations, punctures and cuts and concussion injuries.
Common factors are wet floors, snow and ice on walkways, uneven floor surfaces, broken handrails or railings, pathways that are not clear and trip hazards such as electrical cords, floor mats or blocked pathways.
For snowy and wet surfaces, proper footwear will eliminate most claims. Slip-resistant shoes with rubber soles are necessary for these conditions and are recommended year round. It is also important to immediately replace shoes with worn soles. Due to the variety of locations security guards are stationed at, wet floors will always be a common problem, both inside and outside so slip-resistant footwear should be mandatory.
Prevention can prevent a significant amount of these types of claims. Snowy walkways should be cleared frequently and mats placed at entrances to prevent slips on wet floors just inside the entrance.
Areas with poor lighting, especially on upper levels or in stairways, should be addressed to include adequate lighting. Hazards such as ladders or stools in walkways should be moved when not in use. Guards should be constantly aware of the surfaces they are walking on to avoid trip and fall hazards.
2 – Bodily Reaction Injuries (other than a fall)
It does not require a fall to be injured. Bodily reaction injuries are incurred due to a sudden action/reaction such as trying to break a fall or losing your balance or anything that forces your body into an unnatural position. These are indirect trauma injuries but are still one of the top causes for workers compensation claims for security guards.
Common injuries are pulled and twisted muscles and tendons and sprains and strains. Making sure employees are physically able to perform the job can help prevent injuries. Jobs that require a lot of walking or movement can easily cause muscle fatigue, which increases change of injury, as does not having muscle strength or flexibility. Something as simple as warm up stretches before a shift and/or strength training can help prevent this injury type.
Because trying to regain balance after tripping is the most common cause, extra care must be taken when conditions are icy or wet and the protocols and prevention techniques listed above apply. Locating and avoiding potential trip hazards will help prevent this as well.
3 – Vehicle Accident (including motorized carts)
Injuries sustained in a vehicle accident while working are another common claim seen with security guards. This can include collisions with cars and objects, rollovers and being struck by a car while on foot.
Wearing a seat belt and making sure no loose objects are on the dashboard will help minimize injuries in the event of an accident as well as taking care to not drive while fatigued or distracted.
4 – Overexertion
This type of claim is often seen in security guards and police due to the physical nature of their job. It can occur with excessive walking, pursuits and chases, or anything that causes a joint or muscle to move beyond its normal range such as twisting to get in or out of a car, or sitting/standing too long.
To prevent this, make sure employees have adequate rest breaks when the job is physically demanding. Good posture and strength training can also help. As with bodily reaction claims, ensuring employees are physically able to do the job is a good idea.
5 – Workplace Violence
The risk of injury from violence is an inherent risk for security guards. The best way to prevent it is to have a workplace violence program with crisis procedures and protocols for employees to follow. Training on risk identification, threat handling and de-escalation is highly recommended. Threats should be replied to immediately and all incidents, large or small, need to be noted.
6 – Exposure to elements
Working in temperatures that are too hot or too cold carries risk. Security guards work no matter what the outside temperature is like and with some knowledge and preparation, can limit their risk of being injured due to exposure to sun or from the cold such as from heat stroke, heat exhaustion, sunburn or hypothermia.
For cold, it is important to protect the ears, face, hands and feet. Boots should be worn that are slip resistant, waterproof and insulated. Clothing should be in loose layers that does not restrict movement. Tight layers will restrict blood circulation in the body.
For working in the sun, the use of sunblock and making sure to stay hydrated is necessary. For anybody not used to working in the heat, gradual increase in their exposure to the sun will help them tolerate it more. Sudden prolonged sun exposure can trigger heat related illness.
7 – Environmental Conditions
Injuries of this type include injuries from the working environment. They can include smoke, chemical burns, injuries from contact with objects that are extremely hot or cold, steam burns, vapor/fumes or gas related injuries or electrical burns.
There should be safety equipment appropriate for the location that is easily accessible and in multiple locations to help minimize injury in the event of an emergency incident. There should be frequent site safety and hazard checks and security guards should be trained in proper safety and emergency protocols.
Overall, employees should be fully trained and prepared for a variety of on-site hazards and situations. Being distracted or careless accounts for a significant percentage of all injuries sustained by security guards and there should be a no tolerance policy for these behaviors.
Pre-work physical screenings for strenuous jobs are recommended as are employee screenings for all employees. Cultivation of a work culture that places and emphasis on safety and with open communication will help employees and owners identify and handle any potential hazards.