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The Annual Cost of Workplace Injuries in the U.S.

Workplaces can be dangerous environments. This includes not only sites where heavy industrial equipment is in user – but in the common office where cubicles dominate. The sheer number of ways that an employee can injure themselves is staggering. Nonfatal, but debilitating workplace injuries cost U.S. business in the region of $62 billion per year according to the latest figures supplied by America’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). That is more a billion dollars a week.

The impact of these costs can send ripples across the entire framework of not only single sectors but the American economy as a whole. The costs (both direct and indirect) are calculated taking into account a number of factors. The direct cost to businesses includes compensation for workers, medical costs and legal costs. there are a number of indirect costs as well – these can include bringing new employees on board and training them as replacements for those suffering illness or disability, addressing the issues which caused the injury (and investigating the cause). Of course, there is also the inevitable loss of productivity while the issues are addressed, as well as any repairs needed to equipment – and remedial action should it be found that equipment and process need to be upgraded. There are softer costs as well – these may be more difficult to quantify – such as lower employee morale and increased absenteeism as a result of mental trauma, however, they certainly make a significant contribution to the cost of workplace injuries.

A recent report by the Liberty Mutual Institute for Safety indicated that the largest contributor to workplace injury was what its report titled ‘Overexertion involving outside sources’. This includes injuries connected with lifting, pushing, pulling, carrying, holding and throwing objects. The total cost to American business of these sorts of injuries is $15,08 billion per annum – contributing 24.4% to the total injury-related costs. The second on the list are those injuries relating to ‘Falls on the Same Level’ which contributed 16.4% to the total ($10,17b). Third on the list was ‘Falls to a Lower Level. The other categories included injuries caused by vehicles, equipment and similar – as well as repetitive strain injuries.

It is clear from these statistics that more robust risk assessments need to take place as a matter of great urgency. As competitive pressures mount – so does the pace at which workers must perform. Under conditions like that, it is almost inevitable that more injuries will take place. Risk assessment management needs to be aware of – and institute procedures that identify and mitigate the potential for injury.