According to research conducted by insurance giant Liberty Mutual Insurance®, overexertion continues to be the leading cause of disabling injury in the workplace. Injuries in this category, which include lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying, or throwing, cost U.S. businesses $15 billion in 2012, the most recent year studied.
The Liberty Mutual findings are based on information from the insurer’s workers’ compensation claims, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the National Academy of Social Insurance. Researchers determined which injuries caused an employee to be out of work for 6 or more days and ranked those events by total workers’ compensation costs.
Here are the 10 leading injury causes and associated costs. Are they the same ones you’re seeing in your workplace?
- Overexertion: $15.1 billion
- Falls on same level: $9.19 billion
- Struck by object or equipment: $5.3 billion
- Falls to lower level: $5.12 billion
- Other exertions or bodily reactions: $4.2 billion
- Roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicles: $3.18 billion
- Slip or trip without fall: $2.17 billion
- Caught in or compressed by equipment or objects: $2.1 billion
- Repetitive motion involving microtasks: $1.84 billion
- Struck against object or equipment: $1.76 billion
All told, Liberty Mutual says the financial impact of these 10 injury causes is $60 billion in direct workers’ compensation costs, or more than $1 billion per week spent by businesses. That figure doesn’t include the indirect costs of lost productivity, absenteeism, and other associated expenses.
Do More to Avoid Disabling Injuries at Your Business
Take these steps to prevent injuries that hurt people and your bottom line:
- Create a workplace culture where employees feel free to report unsafe conditions, near misses, and incidents, and to make suggestions that will enhance workplace safety.
- Encourage employees to report discomfort before it turns into pain or injury. Most overexertion injuries are treatable if they’re caught early. When they’re not caught early, they can become chronic, disabling conditions.
- Try to eliminate manual handling risks at the earliest stage, for example when ordering or installing new equipment.
- Reduce or eliminate slip and fall hazards by maintaining walking and working surfaces in a safe condition and by making sure that proper lighting is present throughout the facility.
- Make sure employees are fully trained on safe work practices, including lifting and material transfer.
- If you have put controls in place that require employee participation like adjustable workstations, make sure that workers know how to use them to their best advantage.
- Get out on the floor or in the field to observe how people are working. Identify risks and talk with employees about their jobs.
- Have a progressive discipline program in place to enforce infractions of safety rules.
- Practice what you preach—even if you are at a reduced risk of injury compared to your workers, they will be watching your lead. If you’re not doing what you tell them to do, they might not do it either.
For more tips on preventing overexertion injuries or slips, trips, and falls, use the “search” feature at Safety.BLR.com®.