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Injury and Illness Prevention Programs (I2P2) and What it Means for Your Organization – Part 3

Economic burden of workplace injuries

In our last installment, we focused on ways to achieve an I2P2 that will be compliant and bring successful results. This episode of the I2P2 series will address the economic burden that workplace injuries place on both an individual company and the country as a whole.

Health and Safety teams have been working tirelessly to decrease the occurrence and cost associated with injury and illness at the workplace. Now, even more members of the team are starting to get involved.

From Human Resources to general managers, it has become realized the extent that injuries and illnesses in the workplace impact business, decreasing production rates, profitability and ultimately limiting the competitive edge that companies rely on, especially in this marketplace. OSHA has been working to put into place mandated rules regarding the prevention of such issues, thru their I2P2 initiatives.

Although this program is not complete or officially put into law yet, it shows the trend to prevention that will become the “norm.” The risk management model that was essentially reactive – meaning hazards were dealt with in direct response to injury – is fading and a new “proactive” preventative approach is on its way.

Workplace Injuries

Studies point out that serious work related injuries have dropped in the US 33% between 1994 and 2003. However, the injury rate is still staggering; the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there are still over one million severe occupational injuries and nearly 5000 work-related deaths annually in the US. Furthermore, the Workplace Safety Index indicates that workplace injuries represent a huge burden for businesses at over $50 billion in annual direct costs.

It is easy to see that workplace injuries are a huge burden for businesses. However, how can we minimize these injuries? Research shows us part of the answer.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently studied more than 87,000 occupational injuries involving the shoulder.

“We know through scientific literature that occupational physical loading increases the risk of clinical shoulder disorders,” says Center for Physical Ergonomics Director Nils Fallentin, PhD.

“Based on the study findings, we know that the key elements of an intervention should include ways to reduce pain and discomfort, making informed decisions about activities and care, communicating effectively in the workplace, and dealing with feelings and concerns about symptoms and work ability,” says Glenn Pransky, MD of the Center for Disability Research.

According to the 2011 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, overexertion injuries accounted for over $50 billion in direct US worker comp costs, which is down 6.5% from 2009. In a review of the top 10 causes of the most disabling injuries of 2009, studies show that overexertion is the number one cause, accounting for over 25% of the injuries! Overexertion refers to injuries from excessive lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying and throwing.

Growth trends show that overexertion, struck against injuries, highway incidents and repetitive motion injuries costs have decreased from 1998 to 2000, and that repetitive motion injuries decreased by 40%! Obviously great strides are being made but there is still substantial work to be done.

We have found that by looking at risk and the essential functions of the job, the risk can be reduced by ensuring that employees are fit for duty (have the strength/endurance to perform job functions), that ergonomic interventions have been completed, and that pain is dealt with promptly and not allowed to worsen over time, that injury rates can be drastically cut! Want to find out more about how you can take a proactive approach to injuries in the workplace? Contact an InjuryFree team member by email or at (800) 445-3519 today.

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