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Workplace Injuries Cost the Nation Billions of Dollars

Everyone who has suffered an injury on the job understands the impact it can have on your life. The cumulative impact of all work accidents is harder to grasp. A new study from the University of California, Davis, suggests that workplace injuries and illnesses cost the United States roughly $250 billion per year. That staggering figure is more than all forms of cancer, more than diabetes and more than strokes cost the nation. Workplace injuries affect individuals and families, but they also impact the financial health of the United States as a whole.

The study focused on data from 2007. In that year, more than 8.5 million work injuries were suffered, as well as an additional 516,100 work-related illnesses. An estimated 59,000 people died from injuries and illnesses related to their jobs that year. While the study used the decline in productivity to generate a cost estimate, it should not be forgotten that each injury and illness strikes an individual and can turn a worker's life upside-down in an instant. The numbers do make it clear that there is an urgent need to do more to ensure the health and safety of all American workers.

Workers' compensation is intended to offset the cost of workplace injuries and help employees pay the bills during the recovery process. The author of this study points out that workers' comp covered less than 25 percent of the total costs of these injuries and illnesses. Medical insurance, Medicare and Medicaid were used to cover the remaining 75 percent.

Employers have the greatest power to reduce the instances of injury and illness in the workplace. By placing greater emphasis on safety and by directing the proper resources to training, equipment and other safety measures, employers have the power to help their workers stay safe and healthy. Hopefully this study serves as a wake-up call to the nation to take this problem seriously.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, "U.S. Work-Related Injuries, Illnesses Take Toll on the Till," 20 January 2012

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