The costs of workplace injuries for workers and their loved ones are discussed pretty frequently on this blog, in general terms. Those costs are often not absorbed by the businesses where worker injuries occur, or by the insurance companies that represent those businesses and often present denials and roadblocks for injured workers to get prompt, effective treatment. Instead, costs are passed on to society’s social safety nets (also known as the taxpayer) to help shore up the injured workers and their loved ones.
I can cite many individual examples where workplace safety and the workers’ compensation system have fallen short in either preventing work injuries or serving injured workers after an incident occurred. Those limitations, and even failures of the system, usually result in a significant loss of income for injured workers and their loved ones and lives being altered. Sometimes, previously self-sufficient people have to rely on programs like Social Security Disability.
Now there is recent research to back up my experiences and show that the workers’ compensation system must serve injured workers better, not just be worried about the “bottom lines” of businesses, insurance companies, cost-containment groups, and others who prioritize themselves before the injured workers and are part of the workers’ compensation system. This research comes from those who are studying the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79).
There are a lot of useful and interesting details in this article, which I strongly encourage you to read. Keep in mind that the authors separated people into the following categories:
- “persons with DAFW injuries (injuries resulting in days away from work)”
- “those with NDAFW injuries (no days away from work)”
- “non-injured persons”
According to the abstract, the researchers’ conclusions were as followed.
“Occupational injuries exacerbate income inequality. Efforts to reduce such disparities should include workplace safety and health enforcement. Am. J. Ind. Med. 59:106–118, 2015.”
Remember the categories above? Here are the research study’s results, according to the abstract.
“The annual earnings growth was $3,715 (in 2000 dollars) less for workers with DAFW injury and $1,152 less for workers with NDAFW injury compared to non-injured workers during a 10-year follow-up. Lost wages and disability following injury contributed to income loss for injured workers, but the loss was moderated by union membership. After controlling for confounders, income disparities persisted, but family wealth differences did not.”
One of the great and frustrating things about research is that more research always needs to be done to explore more results and confirm (or not confirm) the original study’s results, and that takes both research funding and time, which are both often in short supply. Regardless, there were a couple of points that were in the LexisNexis Legal Newsroom’s article by Roger Rabb that I found particularly useful.
“… Construction workers who are injured are more likely to suffer a more severe injury than a worker in another occupation who suffers an injury. Strangely, however, injured construction workers were less likely to file for workers’ compensation benefits than persons in other occupations, although they were slightly more likely to receive benefits if they did file a claim. Injured construction workers were also more likely to suffer lost wages, more likely to work less than full time or get laid off, and less likely to get assigned to a different job than injured workers in other occupations,” Rabb wrote.
In addition, these results won’t surprise people who know about workers’ compensation, but it is worth mention that Rabb noted that “the study also identified that differences in gender and education level impacted injury rates.”
As can be seen by the study results linked to above, the workers’ compensation system SHOULD and MUST do a better job to serve injured workers and their loved ones. Injured workers must be treated in a timely manner, and efforts should be made so they can either get back to work once they are healed, or, depending on the circumstance, adjust to their new normal (financial and otherwise). These efforts can best be improved through prompt and thorough treatment without roadblocks and denials by either the business or the insurance companies involved, so workers can eventually obtain retraining or figure out other ways to support themselves and their loved ones, and to move on with their lives in the best way possible.