Every workplace injury comes at a cost. A single fall, spill, equipment malfunction, or other accident can lead to thousands of dollars lost to a claim, a fine, incident response and mitigation efforts, lost productivity, or all the above—plus numerous indirect costs.
As if the financial impact of workplace injuries weren’t enough, a new study by the Boston University School of Public Health has uncovered a dire effect for injured employees and their families. When a worker sustains an injury that requires more than a week off from work, that person is significantly more likely to die of suicide or a drug overdose.
Safety+Health magazine reports:
“The researchers reviewed workers’ compensation data collected between 1994 and 2000 for more than 100,000 injured workers in New Mexico and linked it with the workers’ Social Security Administration earnings and mortality data through 2013, along with National Death Index cause-of-death data through 2017. They found that 36,034 of the workers sustained a lost-time injury between 1994 and 2000. Lost-time injuries were defined as requiring more than seven days off the job or resulting in permanent disability.
Women with lost-time work injuries were 193% more likely to die from drug-related causes and 92% more likely to die from suicide. Men were 72% more likely to die by suicide and 29% more likely to die of drug-related causes.”
Read “Study links workplace injuries to greater risk of suicides, fatal drug overdoses.”Why are these individuals more likely to die by suicide or drug-related causes? Consider the consequences of a lost-time injury. Such an incident may result in lasting disfigurement or impairment to physical or cognitive function. It might mean taking pain medication for weeks, months, or longer—at a time when opioid overdoses are at historically high levels. Without a strong personal support network (which many Americans lack) and ongoing medical and mental health care (which many can’t afford), a person may see no alternative to taking their own life—or may do so inadvertently.
The good news is that these tragic deaths are preventable. Employers have a responsibility to protect their workers at every opportunity. It starts with understanding the risks of workplace injuries and making safety the number 1 priority. After all, the same approach that saves employees’ lives is also the best way for organizations to save money.