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Shouldn't cost make preventable work injuries rarer?

New York generates a lot of work injury situations. The most unusual make into the headlines. The ones that are most common often don't. What does make the news is how much those injuries cost in terms of meeting the workers' compensation needs of the victims.

Here's one example. According to Liberty Mutual Insurance, disabling workplace injuries cost U.S. employers nearly $60 billion in 2014. That figure may be higher for the last couple of years, but we won't know for a while. The numbers supplied are the most recent available from the federal government.

Equally noteworthy is the list of the top 10 causes of injury - the ones responsible for more than 83 percent of the total 2014 bill. Leading the pack is overexertion. You might think this might refer to lifting something too heavy or exhaustion suffered from working in extreme conditions. But, according to the National Safety Council, the most common overexertion injuries are strains and sprains to arms, legs or backs from repetitive motions.

Following in close order after overexertion are same-level falls and falls from one level to another. Altogether, they account for nearly half of what was spent in 2014.

Not surprisingly, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration says most of these could be prevented. The agency even has standards that employers could employ to prevent them, if they only would.

  • Overexertion can be countered through proper application of ergonomics. Give workers the right equipment for each job, training, and make sure safety policies are followed and overexertion issues would decline. 
  • Same-level falls happen when workers are exposed to floor surfaces that are wet or cluttered. OSHA standards require walking-working surfaces are free of hazards. 
  • Long falls can be prevented, says OSHA, if employers provide fall protection systems that comply with the standards for safe walking-working surfaces. If a surface is six or more feet above the next level, guardrails, nets or personal arresting equipment are required.

While employers and insurers complain about the high cost of workers' compensation insurance, the law ensures injured workers the protective benefits. Claims are often denied to save money, but many experts would likely agree that abiding by the set standards would be a better way to achieve the goal. 

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