Hand & Wrist Injuries Are Common & Costly, Says New Study

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If you had to guess what type of workplace injuries are the most costly, what would you say—broken legs? Head injuries?

According to a new study in the May 2012 issue of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, hand and wrist injuries are the most expensive type of injury in the Netherlands, costing about $740 million (USD) annually.

Injuries to the hand and wrist account for approximately 20% of patient visits to emergency rooms in the Netherlands. So the study, “Economic Impact of Hand and Wrist Injuries: Health-Care Costs and Productivity Costs in a Population Study,” looked at the frequency, cost of treatment and lost productivity associated with these injuries and compared them to other emergency room injuries.

The investigators reviewed data from the Dutch Injury Surveillance System, the National Hospital Discharge Registry and a patient follow-up survey from 2007 and 2008. They calculated injury incidence, healthcare costs and productivity costs by age group, sex and different subgroups of injuries. They also used an incidence-based cost model to estimate the healthcare costs and incorporated follow-up data on return to work rates into the absenteeism model to estimate the productivity costs.

The results: The researchers found that hand and wrist injuries cost the most at $740 million a year. Most of the total cost was attributed to productivity costs (56%) as opposed to costs for treatment and care. As for other types of injuries:

  • Knee and lower limb fractures cost $562 million annually
  • Skull-brain injuries cost $355 million
  • Hip fractures cost $532 million.

Among the subtypes of hand and wrist injuries, hand and finger fractures were the most expensive, costing approximately $278 million each year, largely due to loss of productivity in patients 20 to 64 years old.

The researchers concluded, “Hand and wrist injuries not only constitute a substantial part of all treated injuries but also represent a considerable economic burden, with both high healthcare and productivity costs.”

Preventing Hand & Wrist Injuries

The good news is that many hand and wrist injuries can be prevented. For example, go to the OHS Insider’s Ergonomics Compliance Centre for tools on ensuring that equipment and workstations don’t lead to hand injuries, including a form for investigating elbow, forearm and hand injuries.

Because power tools can also injure workers’ hands, we have a checklist on hand and power tools you can use to ensure that such tools are safe to use.

And because entanglement in machinery and equipment is a common cause of hand injuries, review the machine guarding requirements under the OHS laws to ensure that your equipment is safe for workers’ to use.