According to the 2018 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, nonfatal workplace injuries cost U.S. businesses nearly $60 billion in direct costs alone. To put it simply, serious nonfatal injuries are costing U.S. businesses more than $1 billion every week.
The top 10 most disabling injuries account for 88% of those costs and five of the top 10 injuries are musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), including overexertion involving an outside source, falls on the same level, other exertions or bodily reactions, slip or trips without a fall, and repetitive motions involving microtasks. When added together, these injuries are costing U.S. companies $32.9 billion in workers’ compensation per year.
These are staggering numbers. However the impact of MSDs on a company’s operations rises sharply when looking at the trucking industry. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that musculoskeletal disorders were 2.6 times more common in transportation and warehousing than the national average across all industries in 2017.
Truck drivers, laborers and material handlers consistently perform physically demanding work, with some lifting over 12,000 pounds a day on the job. Many of these workers were never trained on how to use their body correctly, which puts them at significant risk of injury when conducting simple everyday tasks, such as lifting and lowering dock doors, climbing in and out of a cab, and moving heavy boxes or materials.
According to OSHA, musculoskeletal disorders such as strains, sprains and lower back injuries are the most common injuries among truck drivers and account for over 50% of all recorded injuries. Over time, if these injuries are not properly addressed, they can have long-term effects on employees and can become extremely expensive for employers.
The good news is that while MSDs are very costly to businesses, they are preventable. In fact, 53% of all workplace injuries can be prevented by simply adjusting the way that workers use their bodies, interact with their environment, and move every day. However, lasting change can’t be achieved through isolated trainings that occur periodically and are quickly forgotten. The key to success is consistent training and repetition, similar to how a professional athlete trains.
Even the most distributed workforces have access to mobile devices and the internet, opening up a wide range or possibilities for modern program advances. By employing a combination of micro-learning video modules, in-person trainings and participatory learning, a leading national beverage distributor was able to reduce its musculoskeletal injuries by 60% from 2016 to 2018.
Over time, failing to prevent musculoskeletal injuries not only hurts a company’s workforce, it can also significantly impact the company’s bottom line. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, indirect costs conservatively double the cost to a company’s bottom line, although most insurance and risk management specialists estimate that hidden costs range between four and seven times the direct cost. But the biggest hidden impact to a company is the additional revenue needed to offset expenses incurred as a result of these injuries. Sageworks, a financial information company, found that the average net profit margin of general freight trucking companies in 2017 was 6%. That means that a fleet owner with $3 million in annual injury costs would need to generate an additional $60 million in order to recoup that lost revenue.
Implementing a musculoskeletal injury prevention program will not only impact important business KPIs such as employee retention, productivity and morale, but it will make a significant financial impact on the company’s bottom line.