Cost of Injury

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 335,390 work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSDs), resulting in 900,380 days away from work (DAFW) cases in the U.S. private sector with 272,780 (or 30 percent) being MSD cases. Costs to employers is over $170.8  billion dollars. These costs include Worker’s Compensation and medical expenses, the latter of which are increasing 2.5 times faster than benefit costs. The true cost to the nation, employers, and individuals of work-related deaths and injuries is much greater than the cost of Workers’ Compensation insurance alone. The figures above show National Safety Council estimates of the total  costs of work-related deaths and injuries.

Days lost due to injuries in 2018 totaled 70,000,000. This estimate includes the actual time lost during the year from disabling injuries, but excludes time lost on the day of the injury, time required for further medical treatment or check-ups following the injured person’s return to work.

The costliest lost-time Workers’ Compensation claims by part of the body are for those involving the head or central nervous system (68,749); the neck ($61,510); and arm or shoulders ($46,205).

$1 of every $3 of Worker’s Compensation costs are spent on occupational musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)

  • Employers pay $15-20 billion per year in Worker’s Compensation costs for lost workdays.
  • Mean costs per case of upper extremity MSD are $1,100 versus a mean cost of $41,003 per case for all types of work-related injury.
  • Worker’s Compensation claims per injury equal $29,000 – $32,000 per year.
  • Medical bills for the average carpal tunnel injury (excluding surgery) are $30,000 per year.

Indirect costs are 3 to 5 times higher, reaching approximately $150 billion per year.

These include absenteeism, staff replacement and retraining, productivity, and/or quality. In sonography alone, the costs are significant.

  • Estimated average cost to find and hire a new sonographer is $10,500

If an ultrasound exam room is down due to the loss of worker time, the loss of chargeable income can be as much as $4,500 per day, $22,000 per week or $1,170,000 per year in lost revenue.

The increase in MSDs in industry has resulted in research into the causes and in legislation in the U.S. regulating the design of office furniture and duration of video terminal work. Appropriate ergonomic adaptations have been found to effectively reduce the risk of MSD symptoms. Adapting a workstation to each person and his/her work requirements ensures that it functions as intended. Productivity is increased if employees’ work areas are arranged to suit them and the type of work being done.

Conclusions:

Dollars spent on improving the ergonomic design of the workstation have an excellent return on investment. This investment leads to improved performance of workers and improved employee wellbeing. Ergonomics provides the foundation for effective management and well-trained workers to perform at their best level, thus increasing productivity and profits.

There are direct and indirect costs associated with an occupational injury, including the medical cost of treating the injury; the cost of replacement staff, as well as the loss of revenue secondary to decreased productivity during time loss.

The following shows the comparison costs of implementing engineering controls suggested for reducing or eliminating risk factors for sonographers versus doing nothing to address work safety for sonographers:

Do nothing:

Costs: Direct & indirect

  • $30,000 for Worker’s Compensation costs
  • $29,000 average cost for medical bills, exclude surgery
  • $702,000 in lost revenue (based on 60% reimbursement)
  • $10,500 to recruit a new sonographer

Total: $771,500

Using a traveling temporary employee to replace an injured sonographer costs approximately $300,000/year which includes salary, room, board and a car. This eliminates the lost revenue cost, resulting in a total of $369,500 in direct and indirect costs.

Costs: Direct & indirect

  • $9500 for an ergonomic exam table
  • $975 for an ergonomic chair
  • $175 for a support cushion
  • $120,000 for ergonomically designed ultrasound equipment
  • Priceless – a healthy, competent sonographer

Total: $130,650

References:

  1. Brown E. Ergonomics and repetitive strain injuries.
    On line: http://dea.human.cornell.edu
  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov
  3. On line: http://www.ergoweb.com
  4. Evanoff B. Testimony submitted to the United States Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, and Human Services, and Education Special Hearing on Ergonomics, April 2001.
  5. Good ergonomics is good economics.
  6. Grieco A, Molteni G, DeVito G, Sias N. Epidemiology of musculoskeletal disorders due to biomechanical overload; Ergonomics; Sept. 1998; 41(9): 1253-60.
  7. Hawkins J. Survey seeks to quantify technologists’ worth; Advance for Imaging and Radiation Therapy Professionals; July 29, 2003; 11.
  8. Melhourn JM. Cumulative trauma disorders and repetitive strain injuries:
    The future; Clin Orthop; June 1998 (351): 107-26
  9. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
  10. Pike, I, Russo A, Berkowitx J, Baker J, Lessoway V. The prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders among diagnostic medical sonsgraphers; JDMS; 13(5); Sept.-Oct. 1997: 219-27.
  11. Schneider M. Franz. Why ergonomics makes a lot of sense from a dollar-
    and-cents standpoint and why it may be inevitable because of legislation.
  12. Sound Ergonomics, LLC, http://www.soundergonomics.com
  13. Webster BS and Snook SH. The cost of compensable upper extremity cumulative trauma disorders; J Occup Med; 1994;36(7): 713-7.

In 2018, there were 900,380 DAFW cases in the U.S. private sector with 272,780 (or 30 percent) being MSD cases.