Overexertion Leading Cause of Workplace Injuries

By Roy Maurer January 21, 2015

Injuries related to lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying or throwing ranked as the leading cause of workplace injury in 2012, representing 25 percent of the top 10 work hazards and costing U.S. businesses $15.1 billion, according to the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety’s 2014 Workplace Safety Index.

The index ranks the 10 leading causes of workplace injuries and their associated direct workers’ compensation costs. The report is based on information from Liberty Mutual’s workers’ comp claims, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and the National Academy of Social Insurance. Using BLS injury event coding, researchers determined which injuries caused employees to miss six or more days of work and then ranked those events by total workers’ compensation costs, according to Liberty Mutual.

All told, the listed injury causes amounted to nearly $60 billion in total U.S. workers’ compensation costs in 2012, the last year for which data is available.

The top 10 causes and direct costs of workplace injuries in 2012 were:

1. Overexertion (25 percent, costing $15.1B).

2. Falls on same level (15 percent, costing $9.1B).

3. Struck by object or equipment (9 percent, costing $5.3B).

4. Falls to lower level (9 percent, costing $5.1B).

5. Other exertions or bodily reactions (7 percent, costing $4.27B).

6. Roadway incidents involving vehicles (5 percent, costing $3.18B).

7. Slip or trip without fall (4 percent, costing $2.17B).

8. Caught in/compressed by equipment or objects (4 percent, costing $2.1B).

9. Repetitive motions involving micro-tasks (3 percent, costing $1.84B).

10. Struck against object or equipment (3 percent, costing $1.76B).

Ergonomic injuries and falls combined to generate 56 percent of the leading causes of disabling workplace injuries.

Ergonomic assessment tools can help employers in construction, manufacturing, hospitality and health care understand the risks associated with manual handling tasks.

Wayne S. Maynard, program director for Liberty Mutual’s risk control technical services, noted that the direct costs of workplace slips, trips and fall injuries have continued to rise for more than a decade. He said that utilizing specialized risk control procedures and programs gives businesses the opportunity to be more proactive in facility design. “For example, using our tribology research—slipperiness assessment tools—our risk control consultants can actually get in on the ground floor and meet with building designers and architects to recommend flooring standards that create safer interior and exterior walking surfaces.”

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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