Based in Boston, MA, the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety has helped to improve the occupational safety and health of workers for more than 50 years. Through laboratory and field-based investigations and global research collaborations, the Institute’s goal is to advance scientific, business-relevant knowledge in workplace and highway safety, and work disability.
Every year, the Institute releases the annual Workplace Safety Index, which combines information from Liberty Mutual, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the National Academy of Social Insurance to identify the top causes of serious workplace injuries in the US. Researchers rank those injuries that cause a worker to miss six or more days from work by total workers’ compensation costs. The latest Workplace Safety Index provides statistics for injuries that occurred in 2008, the most recent year for which data’s available. Here are the highlights.
2008 Top Five Injury Causes
The top five injury causes—overexertion, falls on the same level, bodily reaction, struck by object and falls to a lower level—accounted for 71% of the total 2008 costs. Overexertion, which includes injuries related to lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying or throwing, maintained its first place rank, costing businesses $13.40 billion in direct costs. Consistent with past years, this category accounted for more than one-quarter of overall national costs.
Falls on the same level ranked second as a leading cause of disabling injury, claiming direct costs of $8.37 billion and accounting for 15.7% of the total 2008 injury-related costs.
Bodily reaction, which includes injuries resulting from actions such as bending, climbing, reaching, standing, sitting, or slipping or tripping without falling, ranked third at $5.40 billion followed closely by struck by object with $5.36 billion in costs. Falls to a lower level ranked fifth at $5.29 billion in costs. These three categories each made up 10% of the total cost burden and were very close in rank.
The costs of the combined fall categories, $13.67 billion, slightly exceeded the costs of overexertion. This demonstrates that falls, when considered together, were comparable to overexertion in terms of impact on the overall cost burden.
Remaining Injury Causes
The remaining five injury events in the top 10 each accounted for less than 5% of the direct cost of disabling injuries in 2008:
- Highway incidents represented 4.3% of the total injury burden at $2.32 billion;
- Caught in/compressed by (which includes injuries resulting from workers being caught in or compressed by equipment or objects), accounted for 4.2% of the total injury burden at $2.25 billion;
- Struck against an object accounted for 4.2% at $2.25 billion;
- Repetitive motion, with related injuries, accounted for 3.5% of the burden at $1.83 billion; and
- Assaults/violent acts accounted for 1.1% at $603 million.
Overall, the top 10 categories comprised 88.2% of the entire cost burden of disabling work-related injuries in 2008.
Bottom line: According to the 2010 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, the cost of the most disabling workplace injuries and illnesses in 2008 amounted to $53.42 billion in direct US workers compensation costs—averaging more than one billion dollars per week.