How Much Do Workplace Injuries Cost the U.S. Economy?

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How Much Do Workplace Injuries Cost the U.S. Economy?

cost of workplace injuries

Recent analysis performed by the National Safety Council (NSC) estimated that work-related injuries cost the U.S. economy roughly $171 billion in 2019. That averages out to roughly $1,100 per injured worker and $1.2 million per worker death.

Many injured workers didn’t file official workers’ comp claims. The average per-worker cost for those who sought medical care for their workplace injury was $42,000.

Liberty Mutual, one of the nation’s largest workers’ comp insurance providers, estimates employers pay roughly a billion dollars collectively per week to injured workers in workers’ comp claim payments.

Lost Productivity

Business owners should have a lot of motivation for providing safe work environments. The monetary cost of paying out workers’ comp claims isn’t the only potential loss they face for workplace injuries. They also lose out on valuable labor hours.

Although it is possible for injured workers to be replaced with new hires, there’s always a cost to training and onboarding new employees. Retaining workers in good health is always preferable to replacing injured employees.

The NSC analysis estimated that employers lost about 105 million days of labor as a result of workplace injuries in 2019. Only 70 million of those lost days were attributable to injuries that occurred in 2019 – the other 35 million lost days were from long-term disabling injuries that had been sustained in years prior but were still keeping employees at-home on workers’ comp.

Their estimate for lost workdays in 2020 due to disabling injuries sustained in 2019 was 55 million days.

Workplace deaths that occurred in 2019 were factored into the 2020 estimate of days lost, since a workplace fatality represents a worker who can never again contribute to the economy.

Liberty Mutual’s 2021 Workplace Safety Index

Every year Liberty Mutual invests significant resources into analyzing workplace injuries to find ways to encourage the development of a safer economy. While it’s true that workers’ comp insurers are generally adversarial during the actual claims process, they are often the good guys when it comes to preventing workplace injuries. Afterall, every workplace injury they can prevent is another potential claim they won’t have to pay.

Liberty Mutual recently published a report detailing which common workplace tasks led to the highest rate of disabling injuries. Injuries that result in disabilities tend to be the most expensive from an economic and workers’ comp standpoint since those workers will likely never be able to return to the workforce – at least not in their previous roles.

They estimated the total cost of the top 10 disabling workplace injuries to be $58.61 billion a year.

By far the top two injuries were overexertion injuries from lifting heavy objects or moving freight (22.7 percent) and trips, slips and falls (18.1 percent). Third were falls to lower levels (10.7 percent), which could mean falls over scaffolding or safety railing.

Being hit by falling objects or objects being propelled by some other force came in fourth at 9.6 percent. Fifth was injuries from bad posture or improper movements. That could mean anything from sitting in a desk with bad posture to kneeling, twisting, bending or even walking and suffering some kind of serious injury as a result.

The bottom five disability injuries included things like auto accidents, getting caught in equipment and repetitive motion injuries.

Don’t Let Workplace Injuries Jeopardize Your Family’s Livelihood

Injured workers frequently face a conundrum after being injured on the job. They may be aware that some employers retaliate against workers who file workers’ comp claims. They might have even seen it happen to their coworkers in the past. At the same time, they also realize that their injury will prevent them from being able to perform their job duties which could result in either their termination or a loss of hours and income.

It’s vital for injured Florida workers to take the initiative and follow the workers’ comp process. You are protected by the law from workplace retaliation for filing a workers’ comp claim. If you are threatened by your employer for filing a workers’ compensation claim, you should contact Florida’s Division of Workers’ Compensation and consider speaking with an attorney that represents injured workers.

Whatever you decide to do, it’s important to follow the proper process. Alert your employer as soon as possible after a workplace injury and visit one of the physicians on their panel of physicians. Make sure to follow the rehabilitation instructions provided by that doctor. Failing to take the necessary steps to get better could potentially complicate your workers’ comp case in the future.


infographic - workplace injuries most responsible for long term disabilities