Ten important studies about Workers’ Compensation

Overexertion again tops list of leading causes of disability

“Overexertion involving outside sources” remains the leading cause of disabling injuries in the United States, according to the annual Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, which ranks serious, nonfatal workplace injuries.

The category includes lifting, pushing, pulling, and other actions involving objects, and cost U.S. businesses $15.08 billion in 2013, or almost 25 percent of total costs, the report states.

The top 10 causes of disabling work injuries totaled $51.06 billion or 82.5 percent of the total $61.88 billion in workers’ compensation costs.

The other top injury causes and their related costs:

  1. Falls on same level ($10.17 billion)
  2. Falls to lower level ($5.4 billion)
  3. Struck by equipment or object ($5.31 billion)
  4. Other exertions or bodily reactions ($4.15 billion)
  5. Motor vehicle incidents ($2.96 billion)
  6. Slips or trips without falling ($2.35 billion)
  7. Caught in or compressed by equipment or objects ($1.97 billion)
  8. Struck against equipment or object ($1.85 billion)
  9. Repetitive motions from “micro-tasks” ($1.82 billion)


Studies link a company’s stock market value to employee health & safety programs

There is a growing body of work that associates excellence in safety, health, and wellness with superior financial performance. Three recent studies analyzed long-term stock market performances among organizations recognized for safety excellence. According to the National Safety Council, the findings include:

  • Companies that won the C. Everett Koop National Health Award from the Health Project produced stock market returns about 235 percent greater than the overall gains within the Standard & Poor’s 500 index during the past 14 years.
  • Companies that applied for or won the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine’s Corporate Health Achievement Award produced investment returns from 204 percent to 333 percent during a 13-year period, compared with a return of 105 percent in the S&P 500.
  • From 2009 to 2014, companies that earned top scores on the Health Enhancement Research Organization scorecard increased 235 percent in value, compared with a 159 percent increase for the S&P 500.


Although the findings did not prove causation, a clear correlation existed between achieving safety and health excellence and increasing stock market value, researchers said. To learn more

Johns Hopkins study on Official Disability Guidelines (ODG) shows better outcomes

A study from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Accident Fund shows workers’ comp claims that follow evidence-based guidelines have significantly lower costs and close more quickly than claims that do not follow the guidelines. The comprehensive study, which was called a “gargantuan undertaking,” divided claims into 10 levels of medical complexity, scored them based on adherence, and established a two-year cutoff period to categorize a claim as open or closed.

Those claims that followed the guidelines with at least a 50 percent adherence rate had a claim duration that was 13.2 percent shorter than those that did not follow the guidelines as strictly. These claims also saw 37.9 percent lower medical costs. The numbers improved as the medical complexity of a claim increased. In looking at the top 10 percent of claims for medical complexity, there was a difference in claim duration of 18 percent and increased medical costs of 38 percent, between the low and high compliance groups.


Impact of ACA on Workers’ Comp still playing out

The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) has published a new research report, “Time from Injury to Treatment in Workers’ Compensation: Setting a Baseline to Monitor the Affordable Care Act (ACA),” that looks at the “baseline” time to treatment for workers’ compensation cases before Jan. 1, 2014. The study addresses access to care and finds that an injured worker’s behavior and demographics are bigger drivers of time to treatment than provider availability. Time to treatment patterns differ by the type of service, type of provider, and the nature of the injury as well as by state. The study finds that the health care system has sufficient capacity at the moment.

The study also notes that given the number of factors that influence time to treatment, it is very difficult to isolate the impact of ACA. Educating injured workers about accessing the workers’ comp system is increasingly important in the changing health care environment as well as monitoring high deductible health plans, which might result in cost-shifting to workers’ comp. The study finds the use of provider networks can influence the timing of care, especially making use of physical and occupational therapy sooner, but that higher reimbursements did not shorten time to treatment. The three states reviewed in this study were Alabama, Illinois, and Oklahoma.


Employers in states with legalized marijuana use have ‘limited tolerance,’ survey shows

A new survey from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) indicates many employers have continued a zero-tolerance policy in states that have legalized marijuana. According to the report, more than 4 out of 5 employers in states where recreational and medical marijuana use is legal bar workers from using the drug. Eleven percent had exceptions for medical use.

Two-fifths of respondents said they could subject employees to marijuana drug testing after an incident occurs, and one-quarter reported all employees are subject to marijuana drug testing throughout employment – regardless of whether an incident occurred. About half said they terminate first-time violators of substance policies.
Although utilization rates falling, opioid overdoses on the rise

“The opioid overdose epidemic is worsening,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a January report. Of more than 47,000 drug-related deaths in 2014, which the CDC said is a record, 61% involved some type of opioid, including heroin. While state laws and education have begun to have an impact on reducing utilization, many believe overprescribing remains a problem in workers’ comp.
The most dangerous cities in which to work

OSHA.net compiled OSHA’s weekly Fatality and Catastrophe from 2009 to 2014 to map out which cities are the most dangerous for workers. Cities are ranked by the number of fatal or catastrophic cases – not individual fatalities – in each city – and not per capita. Houston tops the list of cities with the most fatal worker accidents in the latest 5-year tracking period:

  1. Houston, TX – 82
  2. Chicago, IL – 50
  3. Miami, FL – 41
  4. Las Vegas, NV – 39
  5. Los Angeles, CA – 30
  6. Brooklyn, NY – 29
  7. New York City, NY – 28
  8. San Antonio, TX – 28
  9. Tampa, FL – 26
  10. Indianapolis – 25

Interactive maps allow you to zoom in on your city. For more information


Obese workers not motivated by $550 financial weight-loss incentives: study

A new study, published in Health Affairs by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, found that offering a $550 financial incentive to obese workers who participated in the employee weight loss program did not lead to better weight loss outcomes. As part of the study, 197 obese workers were assigned to a wellness program and given the goal to lose five percent of their body weight in a 12-month period. At random, participants were placed into four groups – no incentive, immediate reduction in health insurance premium, delayed reduction in health insurance premium, and a lottery. At the conclusion of the study, researchers said they found no significant changes in the average weight loss of the participants in any group.

Researchers suggest that employers should consider testing design alternatives before offering incentives and that health insurance adjustments may not be that effective as they are typically hidden in paychecks along with other deductions and payments.
Spike of nearly 50 percent in employee stress, depression, and anxiety cases

Workplace Options, a global provider of Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services, examined data representing more than 100,000 employees’ EAP inquiries from 2012 to 2014. While the number of cases dealing with personal emotional health issues remained relatively constant over the period, those related to stress, anxiety, and depression showed an “alarming” increase, according to the provider. The number of cases related to depression increased 58 percent between 2012 and 2014. Anxiety cases were up 74 percent and cases of employee stress increased 28 percent.

According to the company, this indicates that employers should recognize the emotional health issues of their employees and, when possible, offer appropriate interventions.
Risk of drowsy-driving crashes higher for night-shift workers: study

Shift workers have a high risk for crashes due to drowsy driving after working a night shift, according to a study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital.Researchers studied 16 night shift workers who participated in two driving sessions around the same time of day on a closed track at the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety.

After working the night shift, drivers displayed more drowsiness, declining driving performance, and higher risk of near-crashes. Emergency braking was needed for more than one-third of drives after a night shift.”Sleep-related impairment” was also observed during the first 15 minutes of driving, participants had a “significantly higher rate” of leaving a lane, and risk of micro-sleep rose for drives longer than 30 minutes.

According to the researchers, “…Night shift workers should be advised of the hazards of drowsy driving and seek alternate forms of transportation after night shift work.”

The study was published online Dec. 21 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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