Okla. Reports Drop in Time Off for Workplace Injuries

April 4, 2005

A report released by the Oklahoma Department of Labor showed a 20 percent reduction in 2003 in the number of workers requiring time off to recover from workplace injuries. The latest figure further supports the benefit of workplace safety programs, according to Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Brenda Reneau.

“We know, without a doubt, that most injuries are preventable,” Reneau said. “This latest report points—yet again—to sprains and strains as the leading cause of work-related injuries involving days away from work. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal financial loss, increased business costs and reduced productivity were needlessly spent because safe work practices can prevent most soft tissue injuries.”

Soft tissue trauma was the leading cause of lost workday injuries and illnesses in 2003 for every major sub-industry category, according to statistics gathered by the Oklahoma Department of Labor. As in 2001 and 2002, sprains and strains accounted for about 43 percent of all incidents in 2003.

The positive change is that the actual number of recorded incidents fell 20 percent totaling 5,700 in 2003 compared with 7,154 in 2002. Of these, 36 percent affected the trunk with about 20 percent identified as back injuries. Upper extremities (wrist, hand, finger) accounted for 21 percent of cases while lower extremities (knee, foot, toe) recorded 22 percent of all incidents.

One-third of all incidents involving days away from work (32.9 percent) required in excess of 31 days to recover from a workplace injury. The average injury involving lost work time resulted in 12 days away from work.

“Injuries don’t just hurt people,” Reneau said. “Lost productivity impacts a company’s bottom line and that adversely affects local economies. Lost time due to workplace accidents means reduced wages to the injured worker and high hidden costs for employers. The ripple effect spreads across the entire economic spectrum.”

Of the 13,450 job-related injuries and illnesses involving days-away-from-work, the Service Providing Sector accounted for 71 percent while the Goods Producing Sector recorded 29 percent.

Two sub-industry categories in the Service Providing Sector topped the list in 2003 for injuries involving days away from work. Trade, Transportation and Utilities accounted for 28 percent while Education and Health Services recorded 20 percent. Manufacturing, a sub-industry category in the Goods Producing Sector was third at 19 percent, about the same as in 2002.

Overexertion retained the top spot as the primary cause for workplace injuries involving days-away-from-work. Despite a 24 percent decline from 2002, Overexertion accounted for 26.5 percent or 3,570 of all lost-time injuries.

As in 2002, the second leading cause of lost-time injuries (19.6%) was contact with objects and equipment. The 2,640 “contact” incidents recorded in 2003 is a 37 percent reduction from the 4,181 incidents in 2002.

“Workplace safety and health programs dramatically reduce injuries, especially those that result in lost workdays,” Reneau said. “The state OSHA Consultation program Safety Pays® has a proven track record of reducing injuries and lowering workers’ compensation costs. Our safety consultants and industrial hygienists are injury prevention specialists who set the standard for assisting employers and employees in eliminating workplace accidents.”

Safety Pays® is a voluntary, non-punitive, confidential, free and guaranteed consultation service that assists employers in avoiding and even preventing a federal OSHA enforcement inspection. Safety Pays® guarantees to lower workers’ compensation costs and reduce injuries when the key elements of management commitment and employee involvement are the basis for a company’s safety and health program.

The Safety Pays® OSHA Consultation service is provided to employers through a 90 percent federal, 10 percent state-funding match.

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