Carpal tunnel statistics, Applied Statistics

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Cindy, the Assistant Vice President of Engineering/Administrative Services at Blue Cross Blue Shield Rhode Island (BCBSRI), has seen all of the OSHA statistics:

In 2000, 1.8 million workers in the United States reported work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and back injuries. MSDs accounted for 34% of all lost workday injuries and illnesses (nearly 600,000 cases annually), and $1 of every $3 spent for workers' compensation was for MSD related injuries (nearly $20 billion annually).

Also the costs associated with injuries are significant (see Exhibit 1 for data from BCBSRI's workers' compensation insurance carrier for Carpal Tunnel injuries in particular). With the majority of the work force in administrative and customer service positions, ergonomic factors are an important concern.

While BCBSRI had a limited ergonomics program (easily managed by one person), in 1999 the company had 8 MSD workers compensation cases that resulted in 345 lost work days. Recognizing that their workplace had ergonomic issues, Cindy needed to formulate a plan to revamp their limited program and effect changes. Her biggest concerns were:

     What are the most effective ways (in terms of both costs and impacts) to intervene and prevent injury?

     How can she communicate the hazards to the chief financial officer to get the financial resources required to alter workstations and enhance training?

Exhibit 1 - Carpal Tunnel Statistics

 

Without Surgery

With Surgery

Direct Costs

$8K - $12K

$30K - $35K

Indirect Costs

$16K - $48K

$60K - $140K

Total Costs

$24K - $60K

$90K - $175K

Time Away From Work

weeks to months

4-6 weeks minimum

Direct Costs include wages, hospital bills, medication, physical therapy, medical supplies, etc.

Indirect Costs are estimated at two to four times direct costs and include lost productivity, wages for temporary workers, time to train temps, overtime, stress, etc.


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