This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

May 7, 2003

Workplace Accidents May Increase in 2004

Can you imagine how bold it is for futurists to forecast a trend that can be measured, compared, and challenged? Yes, we are taking a risk, so let us explain this uncomfortable projection.

When workers are well-trained, competent, and confident, they tend to make fewer mistakes and have fewer accidents. When workers know what they are doing, the injury rate is lower; depth of knowledge and experience reduces the risk of dangerous behavior. Conversely, when workers are engaged in unfamiliar tasks, are insufficiently trained, or are pushed to productivity levels beyond their comfort zone, exposure to accidents and injuries increases.

Workplace injuries and illnesses in the United States declined in 2001, continuing a trend in place since 1970. During 2001, 4,881,800 injuries were reported in private industry. Of these incidents, 2,409,400 caused employees to miss work. Research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that workers missed 1,465,300 days of productive time as a result of on-the-job injuries. Figures for 2002 are not yet available.

Lost-time injuries cost employers a considerable amount of money. National Safety Council ( research suggests that the cost to an employer averages $29,000 per case of disabling injury (defined as causing an employee to miss at least one day of work). The Council defines employer costs as an estimate of the uninsured costs incurred by employers and represents the money value of time lost by uninjured workers. It includes time spent investigating and reporting injuries, giving first aid, production slowdowns, training of replacement workers, and extra cost of overtime for uninjured workers.

If we multiply the number of disabling injuries from the BLS (2,409,400) by the NSC factor ($29,000), the result is a 2001 cost to employers of $69,872,600,000. Undoubtedly, some of our readers will suggest other methods to calculate the true cost, but this total will suffice for our purposes here.

While that cost is staggering, assume it will rise. Why? As the economy grows and people change jobs, there will be more people performing jobs that are unfamiliar to them. The risk of incidents will be higher, as will the threat to profitability.

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