The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
In the world of economics, only one things is certain: Everyone is subject to the law of unintended consequences. But when talking about work related injuries, it should be pretty straightforward, right? If only it were really that simple. As the law of unintended consequences unfolds, it turns out that a work related injury produces an amazing array of hidden costs; most of which could never be imagined or planned for in advance.
Hidden Costs we can easily brainstorm the “direct” costs of a workplace injury. But what about the hidden costs? For example, restaffing carries a cost of $2.2 billion annually. When someone is injured, they may need to be replaced. Even if this is temporary it still carries a cost.
Surprisingly, that $2 billion is only 2% of the total hidden costs! Fringe benefits make up $16 billion, while the largest hidden cost of $67 billion can be accounted for in lost earnings. Amazingly, 71% of the total cost of a workplace injury are indirect costs. That means that even the best planning and brainstorming, can only accurately plan for 29% of the total injury cost.
The True Culprits Suffice to say the numbers above are amazing. But what factors incur all of these hidden costs? Here, one might start to think that “Murphy’s Law” is now coming into affect along with the law of unintended consequences. Naturally, the obvious culprits for cost are present, i.e. workers compensation. But what about the cost to the company over legal fees, regulation related fines from government agencies? Some costs do not have an immediate financial cost. Things like a drop in morale amongst workers, or the impact on the company’s reputation, are still costs.
There also may be damage to tools and/or equipment, which may incur not only repair costs but compliance costs from a regulatory standpoint. Finally, there are legal fees and the inescapable increase in insurance rates. When all of those factors are applied to a single workplace injury, it is easier to see how the majority of the price placed on a workplace injury, comes from hidden costs.
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The True Cost of “Work Related Injuries”
Accidents Cost More Than Most People Realize!
When someone gets injured on the job, the direct costs are obvious.
There are also additional “hidden” costs that can add up to more than the obvious direct costs.
These hidden costs are ultimately paid by:
- Injured workers and their families
- By other employees due to lowered wages
- By firms through their lower profits
- By consumers via higher prices
Around 6,371 job-related injury deaths
And 13.3 million non-fatal injuries occur in the U.S. workplace in one year.
- Workers’ Compensation claims
- medical only costs are roughly $26 billion (68%)
- medical insurance administration costs are $5.5 billion (14%)
- indemnity insurance administration costs are $6.8 billion (18%)
- lost earnings summed to $67 billion (71%)
- fringe benefits, $15.7 billion (17%)
- home production, $9.3 billion (10%)
- and workplace training, restaffing, and disruption, $2.2 billion (2%)
Indirect Costs: 71% of total injury costs
Direct costs: 29% of total injury costs
The costs of work related injuries extend way beyond medical bills…
- When an employee gets injured, the company he/she works for loses productivity due to production downtime.
- When an employee gets injured, the employers workers’ compensation insurance premium goes up.
- When an employee gets injured, the employee loses income since workers’ compensation will only pay a percentage of the employee’s annual salary.
- When an employee gets injured, the employee’s family suffers stress about the injury.
There are wide-ranging costs toe be considered, such as…
- Workers Compensation Benefits
- Loss of the experienced individual within the company
- Placement and training of a new employee
- Regulatory agency fines
- Any damage to equipment or tools that was incurred
- Internal and external investigation costs
- Machinery safety compliance expenses
- Management time consumed reviewing and implementing charges
- Potential drop in morale among other employees
- Legal costs
- Tarnished image of the company in the public or business world
- Long-term emotional and physical impacts on the injured employee and family
- Insurance rates increasing
Men are more likely than women to get hurt at work by a ratio of 2:1
Men are more likely to die as a result of a work injury 11:1
Occupations with the highest death rates:
- Truck Drivers
- Taxi Drivers
Occupations with the highest rates of injuries (both fatal and non-fatal):
Occupations contributing the most to costs:
- Truck Drivers
- Nursing orderlies
- Office workers
Occupations which contributed the costs on a per capita basis:
- Prison guards
- Office workers
Occupations which generate the most disabling injuries:
- Truck drivers
- Nursing aids
Occupations at highest risk for carpal tunnel syndrome include:
- Dental hygienists
- Sewing machine operators
- Office workers
Assault and violent acts, frequently have been ignored by OSHA, contribute 20% of injury deaths.
Back injuries are responsible for disabling injuries more than any other kind of injury.
There are hazards in any occupations… Murder is the most likely cause of death among sales workers and business executives.
More than 60% of the senior financial executives surveyed report that each $1 they invested in injury prevention returned $2 or more, a minimal gain of 100%!
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