Serious Workplace Injuries Cost Employers $50.8 Billion in 2003

The sixth annual Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index present a good news/bad news scenario for safety professionals and their employers: While the number of serious workplace injuries declined in 2003, their impact on the company bottom line was huge.

Employers spent $50.8 billion in 2003 on wage payments and medical care for workers hurt on the job, according to the Workplace Safety Index, which is produced by the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety.

As for the good news, the number of serious workplace accidents fell 6.2 percent in 2003, almost half the total 13.5 percent decline over the last 5 years.

Meanwhile, the rate of growth in the cost of these injuries slowed to 0.7 percent in 2003, compared to 6.5 percent in 2002, after adjusting for inflation.

According to the Workplace Safety Index, the leading cause of serious workplace injuries was overexertion from excessive lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying or throwing of an object. Overexertion-related injuries cost employers $13.4 billion in 2003, according to the index.

The second-leading cause of injuries was falls on the same level, which cost employers $6.9 billion.

The top 10 leading causes of workplaces injuries in 2003 and their associated costs were:

  1. Overexertion, $13.4 billion
  2. Falls on the same level, $6.9 billion
  3. Bodily reaction (injuries from bending, climbing, slipping or tripping without falling), $5.1 billion
  4. Falls to lower level, $4.6 billion
  5. Struck by object, $4.3 billion
  6. Repetitive motion, $3.0 billion
  7. Highway incidents, $3.0 billion
  8. Struck against object, $2.2 billion
  9. Caught in or compressed by equipment, $2.0 billion
  10. Assault and violent acts, $0.4 billion

All other causes combined cost employers $5.8 billion.

Included in the silver lining within these huge numbers is the index's finding that the real cost of two of the top five causes of serious workplace injuries fell sharply between 2002 and 2003.

The cost of bodily reaction dropped 4.7 percent, driven by an 11.6 percent decline in the number of these accidents.

The cost of struck-by-object fell 3.4 percent, because of a 12.5 percent decline in the number of these injuries.

The Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index tracks the causes and costs of serious workplace injuries defined by Liberty Mutual as those that require an employee to miss 6 or more days from work and uncovers trends in the leading causes of those injuries.

Researchers combine information from Liberty Mutual, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Academy of Social Insurance to provide a broad snapshot.

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