Researchers calculate cost of injuries among low-income workers

Washington – Workplace injuries and illnesses took a financial toll on low-wage workers and cost the country more than $39 billion in 2010, a new white paper and policy brief concludes.

The white paper (.pdf file), published by the University of California, Davis, draws on previous research that calculated the national cost of injuries and illnesses. Focusing specifically on low-income workers, researchers estimated that 596 on-the-job fatalities and 1.73 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses occurred in 2010.

Seven occupations accounted for most of the injuries and costs: retail workers, janitors and cleaners, maids and housekeepers, stock clerks and order fillers, food preparation and serving workers, restaurant cooks, and cashiers, according to the paper.

An accompanying policy brief (.pdf file) from George Washington University noted that workers’ compensation does not cover all of the health costs – the burden is borne by the worker’s family, other insurance and taxpayer-funded programs. Researchers advised policymakers to improve workplace safety and strengthen the social safety net so workers have something to fall back on if they have to miss work due to an injury.

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