Workplace injuries cost billions of dollars


The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration reported figures from the National Safety Council that fatal and non-fatal workplace injuries in the United States resulted in $198 billion in losses in 2012. Taxpayer-supported programs, injured workers and their families bear the brunt of these costs, according to OSHA.

Annually, there are approximately 4,500 workplace fatalities. Fifty thousand deaths are caused by exposures to various hazardous materials including benzene, silica and asbestos. Three million workers are injured on the job each year.

Workers' compensation programs across the county, intended to protect workers and their families, have changed and it has become more difficult for injured workers to receive full benefits. Employers now provide only an estimated 21 percent of the overall cost of injuries and illnesses through workers' compensation. Workers, their families and private health insurers now pay for almost 63 percent of these costs. Taxpayer-supported programs now bear 16 percent of these expenses.

Studies show that less than 40 percent of eligible employees even apply for workers' compensation benefits in this country. Lower-wage earners face additional obstacles for filing for claims such as job insecurity, insufficient knowledge about their legal rights or a limited mastery of English. OSHA also found that injured immigrant workers are concerned about losing their jobs.

One study cited by OSHA reported that up to 97 percent of workers afflicted with an occupational disease receive no compensation. Most occupational-related chronic diseases are never diagnosed as being related to work. Diagnosis, when it occurs, often takes place long after the end of employment. Workers often seek benefits under Medicaid, Veteran's benefits, Medicare or private insurers to avoid the complexities of workers' compensation.

The widespread misclassification of wage employers as independent workers, particularly in the construction industry, has also contributed to the number and impact of workplace injuries. Companies are also assuming decreased responsibility for assuring workplace conditions because changing employment responsibilities provides lower incentives to shouldering this burden.

This study illustrates that injured Connecticut workers should consider seeking legal assistance while filing for workers' compensation. This help can help assure that workers and their families obtain their legally-entitled compensation.


Source: U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, "Adding Inequality to injury: The costs of failing to protect workers on the job," Retrieved March 30, 2015

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