Prevention System Updates

U.S. workplace injuries and illness cost as much as cancer

Release Date:  Feb 14, 2012

A U.S. expert in health economics has concluded that the economic burden of workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities — estimated at US$250 billion annually — equals the economic burden of cancer.1 The analysis takes into account medical and productivity costs.

U.S. Workplace Injuries & Illness, 2007
Injuries & Illnesses Number Cost ($US billions) %
Fatal injuries 5,600 6 77
Non-fatal injuries 8,559,000 186
Fatal illnesses 53,000 46 23
Non-fatal illnesses 427,000 12
  Total 250 100

J. Paul Leigh, a professor of health economics at the University of California in Davis, CA, based his analysis on data from multiple sources of injury, disease, employment, and inflation data: the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Council on Compensation Insurance, and the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (see “U.S. Workplace Injuries & Illness, 2007” for a breakdown).

The contributions of job-related injuries and illnesses to the overall cost of medical care and ill health are greater than generally assumed, says Leigh.

How Canadian figures compare

A review of Canadian workplace injuries and illnesses from 1996 to 2008 estimates the total costs to the Canadian economy at more than $19 billion annually.2 The estimates are based on workers compensation statistics reported by each province and territory.

The review also indicates that in each year just under

  • one million injury claims were reported
  • 400,000 lost-time claims were accepted

In 2008 alone, the analysis found,

  • 1 in every 46 workers covered by provincial or territorial compensation systems was injured severely enough to miss at least one day of work. This represents about one compensable time-loss injury for every two minutes worked
  • about three fatalities occurred every day
  • compensation agencies paid an average of $24,845 per each accepted lost-time injury or fatality, for a total of $7.67 billion in benefit payments
  • compensation agencies paid $2 billion in health care and vocational rehabilitation payments
  • the total direct annual costs of workplace injuries and fatalities to the Canadian economy were $9.7 billion

Reducing the risk of injury in your workplace

A management system that integrates health and safety activities into all aspects of your operations will help achieve positive results in productivity, quality, and above all, the health and safety of your employees. View Workplace Safety & Prevention Services’ extensive list of
management-related resources.

As well, attend a Health & Safety Ontario Partners in Prevention Health & Safety Conference & Trade Show. Here’s a sampling of related sessions:

  • Evolution of Health and Safety Leadership: What’s Next?
  • Hazard Analysis & Risk Assessment – Key Parts of Your Health & Safety Program
  • Integrating Safety Performance Indicators into the Safety Management System
  • Lessons Learned – Key Steps to Improve Your OHS Program
  • Managing Risk Assessment
  • Obtaining Senior Management Buy-in
  • Power Play: Create and Sustain High Performance Teams
  • Safety Leadership: the Final Hurdle Towards Zero
  • Supervisor’s Forum: Due Diligence, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
  • Supervisor’s Forum — Roles and Responsibilities 

1 J. Paul Leigh, “Economic Burden of Occupational Injury and Illness in the United States,” Milbank Quarterly,
Volume 89, Issue 4, December 2011, pp. 728–772.
2 Jaclyn Gilks and Ron Logan, Occupational Injuries and Diseases in Canada, 1996 – 2008: Injury Rates and Cost to the Economy, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, July 2010;