Injuries cost $406 billion in lifetime expenses

Health care workers most-injured group in 2002

Health services is the largest private industry sector in the United States, but being trained in health and safety did not prevent that group from being the most-injured group of workers in 2002 — more health care workers were hurt on the job that year than construction workers and miners combined.

Slips, trips, and falls accounted for a major share of those injuries, and led to a collaboration among several hospitals, the Veteran's Health Administration, Washington University, insurance safety experts, and researchers on floor, shoe, and contaminant slipperiness to develop a best practices plan to help curb the number of health care workers injured by falls and slips at work.

"Slip, Trip and Fall Prevention in Health Care Workers" received a National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) Liaison Committee/ NIOSH award recently for demonstrating teamwork, innovative thinking, and strong science in the collaborative partnerships that resulted in one of the participating hospitals reporting an estimated 25% reduction in workers compensation costs attributed to slips, trips and falls after implementing the program. (For a description of the model, go to www.cdc.gov/niosh/nora/symp06/pdfs/2006PartneringAward_STF.pdf.)

Injuries cost U.S. billions

The injuries occurring in a single year in the United States end up costing more than $406 billion in medical expenses and productivity losses over the lifetime of those injured, including lost wages, benefits, and ability to perform daily tasks, according to findings from the CDC.

Lifetime medical expenses will tally up to $80.2 billion for the almost 50 million Americans injured and treated in 2000, while another $326 billion is the estimated loss in productivity. According to CDC calculations, the costs begin adding up when the injuries occur, and are spread over each injured person's expected lifetime.

The new data and findings are included in The Incidence and Economic Burden of Injuries in the United States, compiled by scientists from the CDC and scientific research contractors at RTI International and the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. (Available through Oxford University Press at www.oup.com.)

Researchers noted that actual costs of injuries are likely greater than the figure reported, because police and emergency rescue services, caregiver time, costs for pain and suffering, and other non-monetary costs are not included in the analysis.

Other findings:

  • Males account for approximately 70% ($283 billion) of the total costs of injuries, largely due to higher rates of fatal injury and the projected loss in wages;
  • Persons age 25 to 44 years represent 30% of the U.S. population but 40% ($164 billion) of the total costs of injuries;
  • Motor vehicle accidents account for 22% ($89 billion) of the total costs, while injuries from falls resulted in 20% ($81 billion) of the total costs.

"Many of the nearly 50 million injuries that occur each year in the United States are preventable," according to Ileana Arias, PhD, director of the CDC National Center for Injury Prevention. "To accomplish that, though, we need greater recognition of the value of our prevention efforts. As this study shows, the benefits of preventing things like motor vehicle crashes, falls, residential fires, childhood abuses and other injuries are significant."