Recent research spotlights a group particularly prone to workplace injuries: high-risk newcomers. Travelers analyzed over 1.2 million workers’ compensation claims submitted between 2016 and 2020, aiming to glean valuable insights into workplace injuries. Travelers’ data unmistakably underscores this vulnerability. Fresh faces, still acquainting themselves with their roles, face heightened risks. Shockingly, more than a third of workplace injuries occur during their initial year of employment, accounting for an equal share of claim costs.
Novelty and Workplace Injuries
Picture this: a new employee, just starting their job, regardless of age or previous industry experience, causing nearly 7 million missed workdays due to injuries. Quite astonishing, isn’t it? Well, that’s precisely what the Travelers Impact Report uncovered, with first-year injuries for high-risk newcomers making up 34% of workers’ compensation costs.
This trend is not limited to one industry or age group. In fact, it defies conventional wisdom, as Travelers found no correlation between age or industry experience and the rate of injury among first-year employees. The key factor is novelty – being in a new role, in a new environment, and navigating different workflows and processes. For instance, a driver may find themselves on unfamiliar routes or operating new equipment, heightening the risk.
This trend extends across various sectors. In the restaurant industry, first-year employees account for nearly half of all workers’ comp claims. In construction, more than 50 percent of incurred loss costs stem from first-year employees. Even small businesses are not immune, with approximately 43 percent of claims coming from first-year employees, a number that has surged in recent months.
Age and Injury Costs: A Delicate Balance
As the saying goes, age may bring wisdom, but in the realm of workplace injuries, it also ushers in higher costs. Workers aged 60 and older, although less frequently injured, bear the brunt of increased claims expenses. According to Travelers’ research, claims costs for this age group soar 15 percent higher than for those aged 35-49, and a staggering 140 percent higher than for those aged 18-24.
This cost differential primarily stems from the presence of comorbidities—additional medical conditions unrelated to the injury. Older workers often grapple with multiple comorbid conditions due to age. This necessitates additional treatment and may potentially delay treatment for the primary injury. For instance, an older worker with pre-existing heart issues might face delays in obtaining cardiac clearance for surgery, thus impacting the overall claim cost.
Age also exerts its influence on the healing process. It takes older individuals longer to recover from injuries compared to their younger counterparts, even when both are in good health. The physiological disparities that accumulate over the years become evident in the extended healing timeline.
Interestingly, the injury landscape for older workers is evolving. While older workers historically experienced fewer injuries, there has been an uptick in recent years. This shift is especially noteworthy as the number of older employees in the workforce continues to rise—a trend expected to persist. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates that individuals aged 65 and older will account for more than 60% of the growth in the labor force between 2020 and 2030.
Unveiling the Triggers Behind Workplace Injuries
Workplace injuries don’t materialize out of thin air; they have identifiable triggers. Overexertion emerges as the leading cause across all industries, contributing to a substantial 29 percent of accidents. Overexertion strains could include injuries from twisting, reaching, lifting, jumping, and the use of tools or machinery, among others. In the construction and small business sectors, slips, trips, and falls take the top spot.
Among these top causes, slips, trips, and falls stand out as the costliest culprits, closely followed by motor vehicle accidents. Slips, trips, and falls keep injured employees away from work for a grueling 83 days, while survivors of motor vehicle accidents remain out of work for an average of 79 days. Across the industries Travelers analyzed, the average number of lost workdays per injury hovered at 71 days.
The Road to Safer Workplaces for High-Risk Newcomers
The ripple effect of workplace injuries extends beyond the injured employee; it touches every corner of the organization. Hence, crafting a safer workplace isn’t just about protecting one; it’s about shielding all from the perils of on-the-job injuries. Travelers suggests five key focal points to minimize workplace injuries, especially for those high-risk newcomers on the job:
Embed Safety into the Hiring Process
A structured and safety-conscious hiring process is the first line of defense. Job descriptions should not merely outline roles and responsibilities but also convey the organization’s unwavering commitment to safety. Candidates should sense the significance of safety from the very beginning of their engagement with the company.
Conduct a Job Safety Analysis (JSA)
The Job Safety Analysis (JSA) stands as a critical tool in the arsenal of workplace safety. It dissects each facet of a job, methodically delineates associated hazards, and prescribes safe work methods to mitigate or obliterate these risks. It’s a blueprint for safer, more secure operations.
Onboard and Keep Training Continuous
Even experienced hands are not immune to the elevated risk that comes with the first year in a new role, department, or following an injury-related hiatus. Consistent and ongoing safety training ensures that employees not only comprehend but also actively adhere to safety expectations and procedures.
Implement an Accident Analysis Program
An accident analysis program acts as a forensic detective, delving into the root causes of injuries post-incident. It provides a roadmap to develop corrective actions that can substantially reduce the likelihood of future accidents, particularly those born from repetitive motions, awkward body postures, or overexertion.
Support Employees Throughout Their Careers
The journey to safeguarding employees does not conclude after their first year on the job. The specter of workplace injuries continues to loom, especially in the form of sprains and strains for longer-tenured workers, as per Travelers data. Employers can be proactive in reducing workplace injuries by implementing illness prevention programs and fostering a broader safety culture.
Working with OSHA
Underpinning this entire narrative is the mandate from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which underscores the paramount importance of providing a workplace free from serious hazards. Employers are not merely tasked with providing personal protective equipment but are, in fact, obligated to eliminate or reduce hazards by implementing feasible changes in working conditions.
In the words of The Travelers Companies, “Understanding who is getting injured, what causes may be leading to these injuries and what the costs are, including time away from work, can help inform the processes and training programs employers put in place to help keep their employees safe and their businesses running.”
In essence, the 2023 Travelers Injury Impact Report equips employers with the knowledge to navigate the intricate terrain of workplace safety. By deciphering the nuances of first-year injuries, age-related cost differentials, and the factors contributing to injuries and lost workdays, organizations can build a safer future for their employees and ensure the uninterrupted continuity of their businesses.
Ready to elevate your workforce’s health? Partner with NMS Health for your occupational health screenings. With NMS Health you are not just identifying, intervening, and preventing future illness, you’re investing in a safer, healthier future for your team. Get started today!