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Costs of occupational hazards: a microdata approach.

Miller TR; Waehrer GM; Leigh JP; Lawrence BA; Sheppard MA
NIOSH 2002 Mar; :1-431
This project aims to provide defensible costs per case and total costs for occupational injuries and illnesses. We proposed to provide these costs by diagnosis, age, gender, occupation, industry and state wherever possible. In order to analyze the cost effectiveness of safety interventions, we aimed to include estimates of the effect of ill health on the quality of life of victims and their families and to provide illustrative cost benefit analyses. We hoped to provide a clearer picture of who pays for occupational injuries and illnesses and finally, to provide a cost estimation model that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) can routinely apply to their data on the incidence of occupational injuries and illnesses. The importance of viewing injury burden by one metric - cost - cannot be overstated. Especially in the world of occupational injuries, businesses and industries must be able to appropriately diagnose the importance of safety procedures and prevention programs. By examining costs in terms of productivity lost, medical expenses, household disruption, and impairment to one's quality of life, our work enables readers to compare the impact of different injuries along several different dimensions. This research is a significant improvement on earlier work that was based on macro-level estimates of the costs associated with occupational injuries. In contrast, in this project, our cost estimates are drawn from several individual- level datasets that allow us to undertake a richer and more detailed analysis of medical costs. Finally, while most prior studies only account for direct and indirect costs, our work attempts to provide a more comprehensive picture by including the costs of pain and suffering associated with injuries. Our cost estimates improve on prior work by estimating the total costs of fatal and non-fatal injuries and illness by detailed three-digit industry categories. Cost estimates for nonfatal injuries with days away from work were also produced by detailed industry, occupation, source, event, nature of injury and body part categories, thus shedding light on those activities that contribute the most to the costs of occupational injuries and illnesses. The improvement in the cost estimates will allow for better grounded cost-benefit analyses of preventive interventions aimed at reducing occupational hazards. In order to provide defensible costs of occupational injuries and illnesses, we estimate per unit costs and combine these with incidence estimates. We used the Annual Survey and Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries to extract information on the incidence of injuries and their associated work loss. We combined this with information on permanent disability probabilities from Detailed Claims Information (DCI) data and wage data from the 1993 monthly Current Population Survey (CPS) files to calculate productivity losses. Medical costs were calculated using data from nine different datasets. Finally, we used a survey of jury verdicts related to occupational injury/illness to predict pain and suffering costs for nonfatal cases in the Annual Survey. Our methods result in an estimated cost of $76 billion for all BLS-reported fatal and nonfatal occupational injuries in 1993. All non-fatal occupational injuries cost approximately $58 billion while fatalities account for the remaining $18 billion. The bulk of the nonfatal costs arise due to wage and household work loss totaling $27 billion, followed by pain and suffering costs of $16 billion dollars. Medical costs are approximately $4 billion for non-fatal injuries. The average cost per non-fatal injury with days away from work is $24,656 while the average cost of a fatality is $2.8 million. The top ten most costly industries account for 26% of the total cost of injuries. Trucking and courier services, except air is the industry with the highest total cost associated with occupational injuries. Excluding no-lost-work and restricted-work-only injuries for which we do not have occupational breakdowns, precision production, craft and repair occupations have the highest total cost. For injuries with days away from work, exertion is the event with the highest total cost and living things (persons, plants, animals) is the costliest source of injury. Our estimates of the total cost associated with occupational injuries are substantially lower than those reported in previous studies based on aggregate data. However it is important to note that apart from data differences, we only costed those injuries reported to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Thus, they omit injuries in the public sector, to workers on family farms and to the self-employed. The BLS data have been cited for several shortcomings in the reporting of injuries that we do not attempt to address in this report. Most of our tables report per-case costs which are presumably less affected by any downward bias in reporting that may be present in the BLS data.
Occupational-hazards; Occupational-diseases; Injuries; Demographic-characteristics; Age-factors; Safety-measures; Injury-prevention; Occupational-hazards; Sex-factors; Statistical-analysis
Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, 11710 Beltsville Drive, Suite 300, Calverton, MD 20705
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National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
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Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, Landover, Maryland
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division