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Study quantifies costs of occupational injury and illness

April 8, 2012
KEYWORDS biddle / blog / NIOSH / occupational
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moneyThe direct and indirect costs of occupational injury and illness in the U.S. amount to $250 billion, according a a recent study.

Writing on the NIOSH Science blog, authors Paul Schulte, PhD; Elyce Biddle, PhD; Frank J. Hearl, PE note that the study by J. Paul Leigh in Milbank Quarterly (2011 89 (6):728-772) is the most comprehensive analysis of its kind ever conducted.

Still, the study underestimates the true cost because it was unable to include:

•employer costs for labor turnover, retraining and hiring
•dementia, depression, diseases of the nervous system, osteoarthritis
•the impact on productivity of “presenteeism”
•the costs of pain and suffering

"This paper is a major step in illustrating the economic burden of occupational injury and illness and how this affects the economic health of the nation and the productivity of the workforce," according to the blog post. "Leigh observes that the cost of job-related injuries and illnesses are greater than generally assumed. However, the national investment in addressing occupational illness and injuries is far less than for many other diseases with lower economic burden even though occupational illnesses and injuries are eminently preventable."

Schulte, Biddle and Hearl say that although the paper by Leigh is a scholarly advance and the most rigorous to date, further methodological work is needed to capture the true economic burden of occupational injury and illness.

• Dr. Schulte is the Director of the NIOSH Education and Information Division.
• Dr. Biddle is a Senior Research Economist in the NIOSH Division of Safety Research.
• Mr. Hearl is the NIOSH Economics Program Manager and the Chief of Staff in the NIOSH Office of the Director.  

Click here to read the complete blog post.

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