Every year millions of American workers suffer injuries, diseases and deaths in their workplaces. Yet little effort has been made to estimate either the extent of these deaths and injuries or their cost to the economy. Thus, important questions about workplace safety and the economic resources expended due to workplace health problems remain unanswered. In this report, we address these questions by presenting estimates of the incidence, prevalence and costs of workplace-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths for the entire civilian workforce of the United States in 1992. Our major findings are: 1) Roughly 6,500 job-related injury deaths, 13.2 million non-fatal injuries, 60,300 disease deaths and 862,200 illnesses occurred in the American workplace in 1992; 2) The total direct and indirect costs associated with these injuries and illnesses were estimated to be $173.9 billion or 3% of Gross Domestic Product, which was $5,950.7 billion in 1992. Direct costs included medical expenses on hospitals, physicians, drugs, property damage, and so on, as well as health insurance administrative costs. Direct costs were estimated to be $66.2 billion. 3) The indirect costs included loss of wages, costs of fringe benefits, and home production (e.g., child care provided by parent and home repairs), as well as insurance administration costs, employer retraining and workplace disruption costs, time delays, and indirect costs of deaths and injuries to innocent bystanders. Indirect costs were estimated to be $107.7 billion. 4) Total direct and indirect costs for injuries were $148.4 billion while total direct and indirect costs for diseases were $25.5353 billion. 5) There costs are large when compared to other diseases. The costs combined are larger than those for AIDS, Alzheimer's disease and back pain and are on a par with those for cancer and for all circulatory (heart and stroke) diseases. 6) Our measures ignored the costs of pain and suffering. Had these been included, using estimates from the willingness-to-pay technique, overall costs would have been estimated to be anywhere from $568 Billion to nearly $900 billion. 7) These costs were borne by injured workers and their families, by all other workers through lower wages, by firms through lower profits, by consumers through higher prices, and by taxpayers through higher taxes. 8) Workers' compensation covers only slightly more than 30% of all costs. 9) Our study appears to be the first to use national data to produce estimates on costs for occupational injuries and illnesses. Prior studies have underestimated costs by ignoring non-disabling injuries, deaths, workplace violence, by taking inadequate account of diseases, and, most importantly, by relying only on one or two sources of data. 10) Greater efforts need to be directed toward gathering data on job-related injuries and illnesses. The United States needs better data (a Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, CFOI) for non-fatal injuries and all illnesses.
Department of Economics, San Jose State University, San Jose, CA 95192-0114
E.R.C., Inc., c/o Snow and Halliday, Salt Lake City, Utah