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Workplace injury, illness costs more than cancer, diabetes

People in Denver may know that the office can be a dangerous place, but they may not know that each year job-related illnesses and injuries cost more than all cancers, strokes and diabetes. In total, they cost more than $250 billion each year, including lost wages, workers' compensation and other costs. When compared to other major medical and health concerns, however, a professor of public health services says that occupational health doesn't get the proper attention.

The professor was the lead author of a recently-released study that pulled information from 40 different datasets that recorded job-related illnesses and injuries. The author also used information from the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, analyzing how much injured workers were forced to pay in medical costs and what an injury or illness would cost the employer through lack of productivity.

The study also uncovered a disturbing fact -- less than 25 percent of the costs were covered under workers' compensation. While some injured employees were able to use their medical insurance, it should ultimately be the responsibility of the workers' compensation program to pay for any workplace injuries or illnesses.

The professor focused his study primarily on data from 2007. That year saw 516,100 illnesses, which included both fatal and non-fatal job-related sicknesses. There were also 8,564,600 people who were injured at work. The total cost of illness in 2007 was $58 billion and $192 billion for work-related injuries. In all, 59,000 people died from either a work-related illness or injury in 2007.

Source: HealthDay, "U.S. Work-Related Injuries, Illnesses Take Toll on the Till," Jan. 20, 2012

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