Employee Injuries Cost U.S. Businesses nearly $1 Billion per Week

Nov. 10, 2003
While American workplaces are becoming safer, the cost of on-the-job injuries continues to rise, according to the findings of the latest Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, which found workplace injuries cost businesses nearly $1 billion per week.

"Managing the significant and growing cost of workplace injuries is a critical challenge facing all companies, regardless of size, industry and location," notes Brian Melas, a senior vice president of commercial insurance at Liberty Mutual. "Improving workplace safety is key to managing this nearly $1 billion per week impact - prevent the injury, avoid the associated costs."

He said the Hard Rock Café's U.S. operation saved almost $400,000 in 2001 and 2002 by reducing workplace injuries at a faster rate than the restaurant industry as a whole.

The Workplace Safety Index ranks the leading causes of serious on-the-job injuries those resulting in an employee missing six or more days from work. The $1 billion figure is based on direct costs payments to injured employees and their medical care providers. The Safety Index did find that the cost of workplace injuries is going up, while the number of accidents is coming down.

Significant findings from the latest Workplace Safety Index include:

  • The financial burden of serious work-related injuries and illnesses grew to $45.8 billion in 2001 from $44.2 billion in 2000.
  • This cost grew 13.5 percent between 1998 and 2001, or 4 percent after adjusting for inflation in medical and wage benefits.

The top 10 causes of workplace injures in 2001 and their costs were:

  • Overexertion ($12.5 billion)
  • Falls on same level ($5.7 billion)
  • Bodily Reaction ($4.7 billion)
  • Falls To Lower Level ($4.1 billion)
  • Struck by Object ($3.9 billion)
  • Repetitive Motion ($2.9 billion)
  • Highway Incident ($2.3 billion)
  • Struck Against Object ($1.9 billion)
  • Caught in, Compressed by ($1.7 billion)
  • Assaults & Violent Acts ($0.4 billion)

The top three injury causes (overexertion, falls on same level and bodily reaction) are the fastest growing of all injury causes, with the cost of each rising 10.7 percent, 17.2 percent and 13.7 percent, respectively faster than inflation between 1998 and 2001. The also represent 50.1 percent of the total costs of serious workplace injuries in 2001, costing about $23 billion a year or $450 million a week.

The frequency of serious work-related injuries fell 6 percent between 2000 and 2001, the largest single decline in the 4 years of the Workplace Safety Index. The number of injuries fell 1.3 percent between 1999 and 2000, and grew 0.2 percent between 1998 and 1999. There were fewer, but more expensive serious work-related injuries in 2001, one reason the total cost of injuries did not decline despite the 6 percent drop in frequency.

"The latest index findings tell employers to expand their efforts to address the fastest growing causes of work-related injuries overexertion, falls on same level and bodily reaction," notes Karl Jacobson, a senior vice president of loss prevention with Liberty Mutual. "This is where there is real potential to get at the benefits of a safer workplace protecting employees and avoiding the financial impact of on-the-job injuries."

More information on the latest Workplace Safety Index findings, tips on how employers can prevent the leading causes of workplace injuries, and case studies showing how companies improved safety and the benefits they received, are available at www.libertymutual.com.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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