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Traffic Accidents May Be Biggest Risk to Employee Safety

The International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC) discovered that not only are highway vehicles the biggest risk of serious injury to employees, but they are also associated with some of the most costly workers’ compensation claims.

The researchers analyzed injury data from the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) and the National Institute on Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Their findings revealed that only work in construction, agriculture, and certain natural resource industries caused more employee injuries than vehicle accidents. The data also showed that traffic accidents were the source of a large portion of the total number of serious disabilities and fatalities.

The study categorized injuries by industry and occupation. As an occupational class, truck drivers were found to have a substantially high risk of fatalities; however, they had significantly fewer non-serious injuries. The reverse was true for passenger cars. They were found to have fewer fatalities, but almost double the number of non-serious injuries. The researchers concluded that the size and weight of trucks protect occupants in slower-moving collisions with other vehicles. However, because trucks are prone to jackknifing and overturning, truck drivers are more likely to experience a fatal injury. Besides the high fatality rates, trucker drivers were discovered to have workers’ compensation claims of longer duration and higher average cost.

Other occupational categories that generated a high number of expensive workers’ compensation claims as a result of vehicle accidents were salespersons, messengers, and collectors. It is important to realize that these were actual claims, and not rates of injury per worker. This means that jobs that have traditionally been considered unlikely to cause worker injury carry more risk than originally believed.

The data also indicated that employees involved in vehicle accidents had a significantly higher rate of permanent total disability and workers’ compensation death claims than all other types of claims combined. The average severity of temporary total disability, permanent total disability, and fatality was greater for vehicle claims than for non-vehicle claims.

The predominant cause of injury in workers’ compensation claims resulting from vehicle accidents was neck sprain and neck pain, which accounted for 15 percent of all vehicle claims. However, these claims made up less than two percent of the overall number of workers’ compensation claims.

When examining the cost of vehicle accidents to employers, workers’ compensation payouts represent only a small part of the expense. The Network of Employers for Traffic Safety studied the combined cost of motor vehicle accidents to employers in 2000. The researchers found that medical expenses amounted to $7.7 billion, sick leave, life and disability insurance benefits totaled another $8.6 billion, while workers’ compensation claims costs approximately $2 billion for employers.

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