The National Safety Council reports that Iowans who suffer cuts and lacerations, including puncture wounds and amputations, in the workplace sustain an average of 10 days of job restriction after being injured. For the most part, these injuries are preventable by employing safe workplace practices. But treatment is necessary even for a minor cut to avoid complications like infection. Fortunately, workers' compensation covers medical treatment and provides disability benefits if the recovery period requires time away from the job.
Prevention of Workplace Cuts and Lacerations
There are a number of poor workplace habits that play a role in workers experiencing potentially serious lacerations. Running machines without proper guards, using inappropriate tools, working in dimly lit areas and not wearing safety equipment are all hazards that can lead to a bad scratch, cut or wound.
If a worker spots an issue that could endanger his or her safety, the best bet is to let management know of the problem so the employer can take steps to fix it. It is important to note that a company cannot force its employees to work in unsafe environments. If an employee thinks his or her work could cause an injury, he or she can file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Further, the employer is not allowed to sanction any worker for refusing to perform unsafe work.
Treatment of Cuts and Lacerations
Despite good work practices, sometimes employees get hurt. It is important to know what to do. All workers should know the location of the first-aid station. Most cuts are easily treated with antiseptic, antibacterial cream and a bandage, but in case of a larger or deeper cut, you must practice the proper first aid.
- Stop the bleeding. Using gauze or a clean rag, apply direct pressure on the wound until it stops bleeding. If it does not stop after 10 minutes, seek medical attention. If it is a deep puncture wound or if a body part (finger, ear, toe) is sliced or severed, seek immediate medical attention.
- Ensure the wound is clean. If possible, let cool, clear water run onto the wound to help remove dirt and debris, and then treat with an antibacterial cream. Do not try to pick out dirt and debris – allow medical professionals to do this.
- Examine the wound. If the cut seems deep or is excessively large, then seek medical attention because stitches may be required. If there is debris or dirt in the wound, seek medical attention to remove it so it does not become infected.
- Get a tetanus shot. Adults should have a booster every 10 years. If you cannot remember how long it has been, you should err on the side of safety and go get the shot. Talk to your doctor for more information.
Some injured workers might require surgery to repair deep or large wounds, especially if the puncture or laceration damaged organs or other internal body structures. The patient may receive prescription for antibiotics or ointments to prevent infection.
Recovery from a Cut or Laceration
Depending on the severity of the cut, workers could be back to work in a few minutes, the next day, in a few weeks, or in severe cases, workers may never be able to go back. If you have been badly cut, you need to follow the advice of your doctor and not let your company pressure you to come back to work. You need to watch for infection and allow your body time to heal.
You may need to file a workers’ compensation claim to cover your medical expenses, as well as disability benefits to which you're entitled while recovering and unable to work. Your best option is to talk to an attorney about your situation to decide the best course of action.