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Workers' Compensation

Top 10 Causes of Disabling Workplace Injuries

Greg Andress
by Greg Andress on August 26, 2020

Workplace Safety Statistics to Prevent Injuries

Disabling workplace injuries or severe injuries that cause employees to miss more than five days of work, cost companies close to $60 billion per year in claims. This amounts to more than $1 billion per week that U.S. businesses are spending on serious, yet non-fatal, work-related injuries.

Although workplace injuries are often associated with construction and labor-intensive positions, you might be surprised that industries like professional services and retail also bear the cost of workers’ compensation claims. The first step toward preventing injury, protecting your workers, and steering clear of the staggering cost of claims, is to understand the top causes of job-related injuries.

Read on to learn the top 10 causes of disabling workplace injuries, as reported in the 2020 Workplace Safety Index from Liberty Mutual Insurance, and quick tips to prevent them.

  1. Handling Objects. The top cause of disabling workplace injury, costing companies the biggest bucks, is from workers mishandling objects. This claim costs businesses, on average, $13.98 billion a year, and most often occurs from overexertion, like improperly lifting heavy boxes. 22% of all claims from the transportation and warehouse industry are related to the mishandling of objects. Prevent this injury from occurring by training and educating employees on proper lifting techniques.
  3. Falls on the Same Level. The second most costly claim related to disabling workplace injuries are slips, trips, and falls occurring on the same level. Examples of this claim would be an employee who slips and falls on a wet floor or trips over wires. This claim costs businesses in the U.S. about $10.84 billion per year. Prevent falls by keeping wires out of walkways and displaying proper caution signage or cones for wet areas. Learn additional prevention tips here.
  1. Being Hit by Objects. Objects most often hit employees on construction sites. Within the construction industry, 16.7% of all workers’ compensation claims are due to workers being hit by objects or equipment, and costs businesses about $6.12 billion yearly. Protect employees from being struck by objects by making sure they are wearing proper protective equipment and are aware of their surroundings.
  1. Falls to a Lower Level. Incidents of falls to a lower level account for an annual claims cost of $5.71 billion. Falls to a lower level most frequently occur in the construction industry and account for 24.1% of claims in this industry or $2.50 billion annually. The best way to ensure your employees are protected from lower-level falls is to make sure equipment, like ladders, are sturdy and secure. Learn more about proper ladder usage
  1. Awkward Postures. Awkward postures make up $4.69 billion of the total $60 billion allotted yearly to workers’ comp claims. Most of the injuries related to awkward postures occur when individuals step down from a vehicle or have workspaces that are not posture-friendly. Avoid these claims by making sure employees are mindful of where they step, and work to educate them on setting up proper ergonomic work areas. Use this ergonomics checklist to apply best practices.
  2. Vehicle Crashes. Vehicular collisions take the number six spot, costing companies $3.56 billion in claims each year. These incidents, not surprisingly, often occur in the warehousing and transportation industry. Avoiding vehicle crashes requires alert drivers that are not easily distracted. Make sure to educate your employees on the dangers of distracted driving and other safe driving practices.
  1. Slip or Trip without Fall. A slip or trip, even without a fall, can lead to serious injury on the job. Make sure employees are alert and mindful of their surroundings to avoid tripping hazards, like uneven walkways or wires. Make sure your work environment is safe, and if an area or walkway is slippery or uneven, display proper signage to warn employees. Taking these precautionary measures can help save businesses $2.06 billion annually in claims.
  1. Repetitive Motions. Employees working desk jobs may be at a lower risk for workplace injury compared to other roles, but they aren’t immune. Repetitive motions involving microtasks, like hand-intensive work, costs businesses $2.05 billion each year in claims. For this type of work, encourage employees to wear support braces, like a wrist splint or back brace, to protect themselves and prevent injuries.
  1. Colliding with Objects. Businesses incur a claim’s cost of $2 billion annually for injuries that result from employees colliding with objects. To avoid this injury, make sure employees are aware of their surroundings. Encourage employees to avoid distractions, like using their cell phones or looking behind them while walking. And, be sure you have done your part to identify job hazards and mitigate them in advance.
  1. Running Equipment or Machines. Running equipment or machinery takes the number ten spot on the list of top disabling work-related injuries. These incidents may occur in manufacturing and even warehouse industries, and annually, cost U.S. businesses $1.92 billion in claims. Keep employees safe from running equipment and machinery by making sure they’re educated on safety measures and how to properly operate the equipment. Make sure loose clothing and extremities are clear of the machinery, as well.

The bottom line: Taking precautionary measures to avoid injury is in the best interest of both employees and employers. Failures in this area are detrimental to all parties. Understanding the most relevant disabling workplace injuries related to your industry will help you focus on mitigation strategies to protect your employees and reduce costly claims.


Greg Andress
Greg Andress

Greg Andress, Director of Risk Management Services for Frank Winston Crum Insurance, is a 30+ veteran of the insurance industry who has spent more than 20 years in risk management/loss control. With clients in many industries, Greg has developed proactive loss control programs, training materials and technical bulletins; and delivered training for hundreds of clients nationwide to help them understand how they can identify and control their total cost of loss.