The Real Cost of Workplace Injuries and How to Prevent Them

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in conjunction with the Canadian Centre of Research Expertise for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders (CRE-MSD) recently released a study on effective techniques for preventing musculoskeletal injuries. In physically intensive jobs where a worker is constantly on their feet and in motion, practicing correct posture, lifting techniques, and other correct physical exertions are paramount to maintaining a healthy body.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the 443,560 sprain, strain, and tear cases reported in 2012, 63% were the result of overexertion and bodily reaction. 61% of all of those sprains, strains, and tears occur in the back, shoulder, or knees. These are key areas that can be affected severely by improper techniques when performing job duties. Even a slightly improper technique, carried out over years of performing the same task, will eventually give way to an injury. This results in time away from work for the worker, and costly workers’ compensation claims for the employer. In fact, in 2012, the median days away from work as the result of an injury was nine days, this represents a one day increase from 2011.

EHSToday summarized the NIOSH report’s findings as “The report’s authors address enhancements such as the benefits of digital video, computer software, training, and use of visual cues.” Surveillance of workers and their habits is critical. A manager with a keen eye can save an untold amount of time and money, for both the employee and the employer. In the report, Brian Lowe, Ph.D. states “Overexertion injuries to muscles, bones or joints cost U.S. businesses billions of dollars each year”.

One key area that may be overlooked when attempting to prevent these types of injuries is at the beginning of the hiring process. A fit-for-duty pre-work screening exam can be the difference between the right hire, and one who may become injured. The exam will ensure that a new hire can perform the required tasks effectively, and using the proper technique. These tests are designed to put potential hires through scenarios that will effectively simulate the conditions of the position. The US Department of Labor and Statistics found that the average cost of a bad hiring decision can equal 30% of the individual’s first-year potential earnings. This does not factor in the possibility that the bad hire could hurt themselves, which would end up costing the organization a significant amount more than 30%, when medical costs, overtime for other workers to pick up the slack, and eventually hiring a replacement are taken into consideration. You always want to make sure that you are hiring the right people for the right job, and that they stay on the job safely.