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Top Workplace Injuries See Return to Pre-COVID Causes

The Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index reveals key loss trends and areas requiring focus to reduce costly worker injuries across industries.

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U.S. industries spent $58.07 billion on direct costs of worker injuries in 2021, with overexertion, falls, and being struck by objects topping the list of causes, according to the 2024 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index. The report also highlights a significant decrease in COVID-19 related claims and a rise in roadway incidents across several industries, underscoring the evolving landscape of workplace safety challenges.

The Workplace Safety Index (WSI) estimates the top causes of serious workplace injuries — those causing employees to miss five or more days of work — and ranks them by their direct costs of medical and loss-wage payments. The 2024 Index, based on 2021 data, reported that of the $58.07 billion in direct costs of worker injuries, $47.9 billion, or 82.5%, was attributable to the top 10 causes of disabling injuries and illnesses.

Overexertion involving outside sources topped the 2024 list of most costly causes of injury at $12.49 billion (21.5% of total costs). This was followed by falls on the same level at $9.99 billion (17.2%), falls to a lower level at $5.68 billion (9.8%), being struck by an object or equipment at $5.55 billion (9.6%), and other exertions or bodily reactions at $3.68 billion (6.3%).

Notably, compared to the 2023 WSI, which was based on 2020 data, COVID-19-related claims saw a significant decline, falling to 4% of lost-time claims from 11% in last year’s index. This shift in the data reflects the changing landscape of workplace safety challenges as industries adapt to the evolving pandemic situation.

Eight industries accounted for 86.2% of all workers compensation losses in the United States. Within those eight high-risk sectors, the top five causes of injury are responsible for 59.1% of their losses.

In 2021, slips, trips and falls emerged as an area requiring renewed vigilance across multiple industries. Falls on the same level moved up in rank or had increased injury counts in the construction, health care, leisure and hospitality, manufacturing, and wholesale sectors. For the first time, slips or trips without a fall cracked the top five causes of injury in both health care and leisure and hospitality, according to the WSI.

Roadway incidents also saw an uptick in 2021, entering or moving up in the rankings of top five causes for the wholesale, health care, professional services, and transportation industries. In wholesale, roadway incidents broke into the industry’s top five causes of loss for the first time. They ranked fourth in health care, the first appearance in that industry’s top five since 2016. Roadway incidents also rose from fifth to fourth among the leading causes in both professional services and transportation.

While the specific causes and rankings vary by industry, the data makes clear that across sectors accounting for the vast majority of workers comp losses, falls and roadway incidents in particular are areas that demand heightened attention and proactive risk mitigation efforts from employers, Liberty Mutual noted. Identifying and implementing effective safety measures to address these exposures will be critical to bending the curve on costly workplace injuries.

Backs accounted for the largest cost of injury by body part in 2021, with $9.87 billion in costs, or 16.99% of the total. Injuries involving multiple body parts came in second place, with costs reaching $9.12 billion, or 15.71% of the total. Rounding out the top three were shoulder injuries, which cost businesses $6.73 billion, or 11.59% of the total.

Torso injuries, which had been ranked third in the 2023 report — under the Bureau of Labor Statistics code for body systems, COVID-19 illnesses were identified as belonging to the torso — moved down to fifth place in the 2024 Index, signifying the diminished impact of the pandemic on workplace injury costs.

To view the full 2024 report, visit the Liberty Mutual website. &

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