Wild West Of Workplace Hazards
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The Wild West of workplace hazards: Birds and skunks and robots–oh my!

Check out these unique injury claims.
Wild west of workplace safety

Please note: the following article was developed for educational purposes only and covers a wide variety of general workplace safety concerns and considerations, some not relevant to workers’ compensation coverage. 

From skunks to chickens to robots, there is truly a wild west range of workplace accidents that can occur.

We recently conducted a comprehensive workplace safety survey of 1,034 small business owners as defined by companies with 1-500 employees. The survey revealed a slew of small business safety concerns and insights like unforeseen hazards, the most common injury types and more. 

But something that also stood out was the breadth of incidents that can occur when we asked business owners to tell us about their most unique injury claims they’ve ever experienced.

Fifty percent of small businesses cited having at least one injury in the past 5 years, and while many of them experienced common injuries like slips and falls (16%) and cuts, we also found that accidents aren’t always typical and they come in all shapes, sizes and in the case of the skunk: bites. 

Uncommon Accidents 

One small business had to file a claim after a bird flew into a worker's face, breaking their nose while they were on the roof of a house. 

A restaurant owner shared that one of his cooks dipped their hand into hot caramel and got second-degree burns.

Another business owner reported filing a claim because a baby skunk nipped one of their employees.  

Another business owner’s employee broke their foot frantically running away from a spider.

In an even more bizarre case, a small business reported an injury where a robotic arm, while being operated by an employee to check its grasping ability, grabbed her and inflicted trauma to her chest. 

In the small business world, safety sometimes takes a back seat among the countless number of priorities but as we discovered, anything can happen. However, neglecting workplace safety can lead to unfortunate consequences for both employees and the business. 

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that small businesses tend to have higher rates of injuries than their larger counterparts. It’s crucial to protect the well-being of employees and ensure the prosperity of the business.

Steps to Prevent Workplace Accidents

Small businesses can help prevent some workplace accidents through a proactive approach. While impossible to eliminate all risks, especially when caused by unpredictable animals and robots, here are some suggested steps small businesses can take to safeguard themselves from those more common pitfalls:

  • Conduct regular risk assessments: The cornerstone of accident prevention lies in identifying potential hazards before they turn into accidents. Whether it's a sharp edge of a piece of machinery or a slippery floor in the kitchen, a thorough risk assessment lays the foundation for a safer workplace.
  • Implement safety protocols and procedures: Once hazards are identified, business owners and their staff can train for and implement safety protocols and procedures. From safe operating procedures for machinery to emergency response plans, every aspect of the business should have clear and concise safety guidelines. 
  • Provide personal protective equipment (PPE): In potentially hazardous environments PPE acts as the last line of defense against accidents. Whether it's helmets, gloves, or goggles, providing appropriate PPE is a safety must. 
  • Promote a culture of safety: Safety isn't just a set of rules; it's a mindset that should permeate every aspect of the workplace. Small business owners and their employees can foster a culture of safety by prioritizing communication and training.
  • Encourage employee involvement: Employees are the eyes and ears of the workplace, uniquely positioned to identify hazards and suggest improvements. Small businesses should actively involve employees in safety initiatives, empowering them to take ownership of their own safety and that of their colleagues. 
  • Regularly review and update safety policies: The only constant in business is change, and workplace safety is no exception. Small businesses must regularly review and update their safety policies to reflect changes in the workplace environment or regulations. When an uncommon injury occurs, now businesses have a better understanding of what could happen. Document it and train for future prevention.

Not all accidents are created equal or can be predicted but by prioritizing safety, small businesses can protect employees and their own livelihoods.

There’s no surefire way to prevent workplace accidents, but choosing Pie Insurance puts you in a great position when they do happen.

Pie Insurance commissioned Yougov PLC to conduct the survey. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1034 US small business owners, as defined by companies with 1-500 employees. Fieldwork was undertaken between 19th - 27th February 2024. The survey was carried out online.

Thanks for reading! This content is intended for educational purposes only and does not imply coverage under workers’ compensation or other insurance offered through Pie Insurance Services, Inc. Please consult an agent or attorney for any questions regarding applicability of insurance coverage in all circumstances.