Accidents can happen in the workplace, leading from injuries that range from sprains and bruises to chemical burns and amputations. If you take a look at some of the most common workplace injuries, many of the least serious can be treated on the spot, while the most serious are considerably less likely to be fatal if good first aid is administered immediately. That's why some knowledge of basic first aid is essential in the workplace. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a comprehensive workplace first aid program should be part of a safety and health program.

The Big 10 Workplace Injuries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the 10 most common workplace injuries according to their rate of occurrence are as follows:

Nature of injury Incidence rate
1. Sprains, strains, tears 44.4%
2. Soreness, pain 14.5%
3. Bruises, contusions 10.2%
4. Cuts, lacerations, punctures 9.6%
5. Fractures 9.1%
6. Multiple traumatic injuries 4.3%
7. Heat (thermal) burns 1.5%
8. Carpal tunnel syndrome 1.0%
9. Amputations 0.5%
10. Chemical burns and corrosions 0.4%
The most common injuries in the workplace

So let's take a look at these injuries and the first aid or treatment required.

Sprains, Strains and Tears

When sprains, strains and tears take place, the first thing to do is immobilize the affected area, elevate it, and apply ice and compression to reduce swelling. Strains accompanied by severe pain, swelling or discoloration may require a trip to the hospital. In milder cases, rest, ice and anti-inflammatories will help heal the area in a few days or weeks.

Soreness and Pain

If an employee complains of soreness or pain, the cause needs to be identified and removed. Soreness can be caused by poor ergonomics, poor posture, or repetitive motions during the course of the day. Determining the cause can result in immediate improvement. If pain is severe or persists, the employee may need to visit a health professional for a diagnosis.

Bruises and Contusions

Bruises and contusions usually occur as a result of impact with a stationary or moving object. The site of injury is often swollen and takes on a purplish or blackish discoloration (ecchymosis). If pain is not tolerable, over-the-counter pain killers may be used. Lukewarm water can also be placed in a small plastic bottle and rolled over the affected area to hasten the re-absorption of blood. This can improve the appearance of the bruise. Warm water therapy can be done periodically until the pain and discoloration have gone away.

Cuts, Lacerations and Punctures

Cuts, lacerations and punctures can be more serious. If bleeding is not profuse, the site of injury should be washed with water and soap; antiseptic solution can also be applied. The would should be covered with sterilized gauze held in place by adhesive tape. If there is bleeding, direct pressure should be applied. Never try to remove objects or debris from a wound.


Fractures are just broken bones, and they can happen as a result of falls or other impact. When this happens, the affected part should be immobilized and unnecessary manipulation of the affected area should be avoided. Always remember that a broken bone is potentially injurious! If not immobilized, it could sever a blood vessel or a nerve, resulting in a much more serious and potentially dangerous injury. Immobilize the injured part, and transport the patient to the nearest hospital or medical clinic as soon as possible.


The immediate action for mild to moderate burns is to run the burned area under cool water (avoid using ice) for up to 15 minutes, and then cover the affected area with clean gauze to prevent infection and to prevent the air, which could cause pain, from coming in contact with the injury. If burning is severe (through more than two layers of skin) or over a large area, the burned area can be elevated and covered with a clean, moist, sterile bandage or cloth. Never try to remove burned clothing. Call emergency personnel to the scene immediately.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. It is usually caused by an injury to the wrist that causes swelling, such as sprain or fracture. It is very common among workers who repeatedly use vibrating hand tools, as well as among those who use a computer mouse for long periods. When CTS is suspected, use of analgesic, muscle relaxant and anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed along with rest and appropriate physical therapy.


Amputation can occur among workers who operate heavy machinery. It is a very serious injury, the most serious consequence of which (at least in the short term) is bleeding. Bleeding is best reduced by applying pressure. If that doesn't work, a tourniquet may be used. However, this application may have complications, so it should be applied by someone with first aid training if possible and should be saved for situations when bleeding cannot be stopped by more simple means.

Chemical Burns and Corrosion

When a chemical, such as hydrochloric or sulfuric acid, is accidentally poured on the skin, chemical burn or corrosion could take place. The first medical step is to remove the chemical from the skin as much as possible by flushing it with water or, if it's a dry powder, brushing it off and removing affected clothing and jewelry. Apply a damp, cool compress to relieve pain and then cover the affected area with a clean sheet or cloth to avoid infection and to prevent the air - which could cause pain - from coming in contact with the injury. In cases where the victim is showing any bodily reaction to the injury, emergency personnel should be contacted immediately.