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The high cost of injury and illness in the workplace

Minnesota workers may not know that worker injuries in the private sector were down in 2013 from the previous year, but experts also suspect that there is some underreporting. For example, Texas and Louisiana both had fewer accidents reported than Washington and Vermont but a higher fatality rate from work-related accidents. Overall, private sector work-related injuries are down to more than half what they were two decades ago at around 3 million annually from 6.6 million.

While oil, gas and construction workers are among the most likely to be injured, health care workers also suffer a high rate of injury due to the difficulty of moving patients. Chronic injuries are common among office workers. Repeated use of the keyboard and mouse can cause repetitive injuries and result in conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome.

Illnesses related to the job also cause people to miss time from work although as with injuries, fewer workers missed time in 2013 than in 2012. Median recuperation time for workers who are out for either illness or injuries related to work is eight days. Workers' compensation picks up less than a quarter of the $250 billion cost to taxpayers. One-third of that cost is due to illness.

Individuals who are injured or who become ill due to their workplace may be eligible for workers' compensation. This is the case regardless of whether or not the illness or injury is the fault of the worker. However, in some cases, an individual may have trouble obtaining workers' compensation. The claim might be delayed or denied. An attorney may be able to assist in filing a claim, ensuring that the process moves along in a timely fashion and in appealing a denial.

Source: Marketwatch, "Work is a dangerous place for millions of Americans," Quentin Fottrell, March 21, 2015

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