Workers' compensation

OSHA: Workers bearing more injury, illness costs


Photo: OSHA

Washington – The financial burden of workplace injuries and illnesses increasingly has shifted to the worker, deepening social inequalities, according to a report released March 4 from OSHA.

Employers must do more to protect their workers, OSHA states in the report. Meanwhile, the agency criticized “the failure of the broken workers’ compensation system” to help injured workers when they need it most.

According to the report, injured workers in 2007 bore 50 percent of the costs via out-of-pocket expenses, while workers’ compensation covered 21 percent; private health insurance covered 13 percent; federal government covered 11 percent; and state and local governments covered 5 percent.

Even when injured employees receive workers’ comp benefits, OSHA said, they earn an average of 15 percent less in the 10 years following the injury than they otherwise would have been expected to earn. The losses are far worse for those who never enter the workers’ comp system.

“These injuries and illnesses contribute to the pressing issue of income inequality: they force working families out of the middle class and into poverty, and keep the families of lower-wage workers from entering the middle class,” the authors said in the report.

Part of the problem, according to OSHA, is “the pervasive misclassification of wage employees as independent contractors and the widespread use of temporary workers.” The agency stated that such changes have increased the risk of injury for those workers and decreased incentives for companies to provide the safest possible workplace.