A recently released study by insurer Liberty Mutual concludes that the 5 leading causes of workplace injuries account for nearly 72% of direct workers’ compensation costs. The Liberty Mutual study is very interesting. The study also concludes that the top 10 causes of injury account for almost 90% of all direct costs. What are these 5 leading causes of injury, in order of total cost:
- Overexertion – Injuries caused by lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, and carrying.
- Fall On Same Level
- Fall To Lower Level
- Bodily Reaction – Injuries from bending, climbing, reaching, standing, sitting, and slipping or tripping without falling.
- Struck By Object
I have a couple additional observations from the study. First, Liberty Mutual only studied what it termed “direct” costs. These are costs incurred directly due to claims. These costs don’t include the tremendous, full cost to the injured worker and his/her family. In Alabama, the disabled worker never recovers for their full wage loss. Instead, the carrier only pays a percentage of the wage loss. Those payments are often further limited by maximum amounts and times contained in our workers’ compensation laws, leaving the worker with losses that are not compensated. Additionally, often injured workers are medically undertreated by carriers trying to save money which further leaves the worker with costs and damages that are not compensated.
Second, many employers could decrease these injuries with a strong emphasis on safety. Throughout my career, I have seen countless falls from heights which could have been prevented if the employer had just provided fall protection equipment. I have also seen many severe accidents where the worker was struck by equipment or objects on a site that was disorganized and chaotic. With a little advance safety planning, I believe many of these injuries could have been prevented. Why is it that some companies in North Alabama seem to constantly have workers getting injured while other companies in similar industries have very few injuries? The difference is often a safety plan that focuses on the workers and their essential job duties.by Jeff Blackwell