Annual Cost of U.S Workplace Injuries & Illnesses More than Cancer

A recently published study by a researcher at the University of California Davis has estimated the total direct and indirect costs of all workplace injuries and illnesses in the U.S. to be in the neighborhood of $250 billion a year. To put it in perspective, that is about $31 billion more than all of the direct and indirect costs of cancer for the same year.

All of these stats took some time to compile, so these numbers are from back in 2007.  Comparing this data to a similar study done for 1992, though, it seems the costs have gone up about 15%, inflation adjusted.  It would be interesting to see if this trend has continued to increase in the last 4 years.  Here is a summary of their findings:

The number of fatal and nonfatal injuries in 2007 was estimated to be more than 5,600 and almost 8,559,000, respectively, at a cost of $6 billion and $186 billion. The number of fatal and nonfatal illnesses was estimated at more than 53,000 and nearly 427,000, respectively, with cost estimates of $46 billion and $12 billion. For injuries and diseases combined, medical cost estimates were $67 billion (27% of the total), and indirect costs were almost $183 billion (73%). Injuries comprised 77 percent of the total, and diseases accounted for 23 percent. The total estimated costs were approximately $250 billion, compared with the inflation-adjusted cost of $217 billion for 1992.

And a few charts to give you a frame of reference:

Injuries and Illnesses Cost in Billions

Occurrences of Injuries and Illnesses

Safety Cost Comparison

That last chart really puts into perspective just how much money is spent on workplace injuries and illnesses when compared to some of the major diseases that affect so many people.  Keep in mind that, as shown in the first chart, the bulk of that $250 billion dollar number goes toward injuries, many of which are no doubt fairly easily prevented.

An interesting point the UC Davis study made was that Workers’ Comp covers less then 25% of these costs!  So who do you think foots the remainder of the bill?  You guessed it – the rest of us, in the form of higher medical care and insurance costs.

I’m not going to make the case here that it is society’s duty to lower the costs of workplace injuries and illnesses (although you can see why that argument could be made), but instead to show how truly immense the annual bill for this is.

As, we showed in a prior post on the estimated costs of an injury, when something as straight forward as a broken arm can cost almost $80,000 in medical care, you can see how this adds up quickly.  Safety training really is the less expensive route in the long run.  It’s just too bad that it is so hard to show how much money proper training can actually save a company (and, dare I say, society?) on injuries and illnesses.  Now that is a study I’d like to see.

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