Injury Trends

Top Injuries Cost More Than $1 Billion a Week

Liberty Mutual's latest annual research concludes that the most disabling, nonfatal workplace injuries cost employers $62 billion in direct U.S. workers’ compensation costs.
By: | February 11, 2016

Employers looking to reduce their overall costs may want to focus on ways to eliminate several basic injury risks. Injuries caused by lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying, or throwing objects cost businesses $15.08 billion annually, according to a new report.

The 12th Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index includes the top 10 most expensive workplace injuries and accidents that cause workers to miss at least six days of work. It shows companies are spending a bundle on incidents that may be largely preventable.

“According to the 2016 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, the most disabling, nonfatal workplace injuries amounted to nearly $62 billion in direct U.S. workers’ compensation costs,” according to the company. “This translates into more than a billion dollars a week spent by businesses on these injuries.”

The latest ranking is remarkably consistent with earlier findings, according to company officials.

The ranking is based on 2013 injury data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the National Academy of Social Insurance, and Liberty Mutual. Researchers analyzed the BLS injury information to identify which events caused workers to miss six days of work or more, then ranked the events based on total workers’ comp costs.

Of the estimated $62 billion in “direct” costs, the top 10 causes accounted for $51 billion — 82.5 percent.

“We rank the top 10 causes of the most serious, nonfatal workplace injuries by their direct costs each year to help companies improve safety, which better protects both employees and the bottom line,” said Debbie Michel, general manager of Liberty Mutual’s National Insurance Casualty operation, in a statement. “Workplace accidents impact employees’ physical, emotional and financial well-being. They also financially burden employers, who pay all of the medical costs related to a workplace injury, together with some portion of an injured employee’s pay.”

Of the estimated $62 billion in “direct” costs, the top 10 causes accounted for $51 billion — 82.5 percent. “Workplace injuries also produce such indirect costs for employers as hiring temporary employees, lost productivity, quality disruptions and damage to a company’s employee engagement and external reputation,” Michel said.

The Costliest Five

The top five injury causes accounted for 64.8 percent of the injury cost burden.

Overexertion involving outside sources topped the list. According to the BLS, this involves “overexertion in lifting, pushing, pulling, turning, throwing and catching.” These injuries accounted for more than one-quarter of the overall injury cost burden.

The BLS reported late last year that musculoskeletal disorders comprised 33 percent of injury/illness cases in 2014, down slightly from the previous year.

Falls on the same level was the second most expensive cause of workplace injuries. The $10.17 billion in direct costs represented 16.4 percent of the total injury burden.

According to a 2004 report from the Washington state Department of Labor and Industries, these injuries involve “a slip, trip, or a fall in which the worker impacts either the surface or an object at the same level or above the surface on which he/she is standing.”

Falls to a lower level was ranked third on the list at a cost of $5.4 billion and 8.7 percent of the overall injury cost.
Being struck by object or equipment was fourth on the Liberty Mutual list. It cost employers $5.31 billion and was 8.6 percent of the overall cost.

Other exertions or bodily reactions was the fifth most expensive category at $4.15 billion and 6.7 percent of the total cost. Included in the category are injuries due to bending, crawling, reaching, twisting, climbing, stepping, kneeling, sitting, standing, or walking, according to Helmsman Management Services.

Nancy Grover is the president of NMG Consulting and the Editor of Workers' Compensation Report, a publication of our parent company, LRP Publications. She can be reached at [email protected].

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