A single workplace musculoskeletal injury can cost a company between $18,000 and $60,000, according to Mike Kim, CTO and co-founder of StrongArm Technologies, a safety data solution provider.
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) affect muscles, tendons, blood vessels, nerves, ligaments, discs, etc. Aside from the compensation costs paid to injured workers, a company can also incur indirect costs, including lost productivity, the cost of replacing affected employees, and the price tag that comes with training their replacements.
“Because of these indirect factors, OSHA believes the cost might be doubled,” said Kim, speaking during a recent Intelex EHSQ community webinar. “Then we’re looking at $36,000 to $120,000 for one injury. And that’s not to mention the personal toll it takes on the workers and their families, and their livelihood.”
To help prevent MSDs, it’s important to know what causes them. The main factor, according to the 2017 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, is overexertion involving outside sources. “That involves picking up, moving, or pushing boxes, packages, carry-ons or even tools,” said Kim. Other chief causes include falls on the same level (17.7 percent), falls to a lower level (9.2 percent), and being struck by an object or equipment (7.4 percent).
Companies can try to prevent injuries by taking either a reactive or proactive approach. “Reactive involves analyzing lagging indicators like injury data or OSHA laws data to determine where problems are in your workplace, and implement improvement projects based on that data,” said fellow webinar panelist Matthew Marino, lead ergonomist at Briotix Inc., a workforce performance solution provider.
“Proactive approaches use health risk and ergonomics assessments around the workplace. They let you prioritize health risks.”
Outfits can also conduct simple surveys to gauge employee discomfort and fatigue, as well as psychological factors such as morale levels and avoidance of tasks out or fear of injury. “These are all things that have been shown over time to be tremendously impactful to whether people get hurt or not,” said Marino.