Study: States reporting low workplace injury rates have high fatality rates

Date Posted
Caleb Kimpel

The states that report the fewest nonfatal injuries for construction workers have some of the highest rates of fatal injuries according to a report released by the RAND corporation, a nonprofit research organization.

States with low injury reporting are often in the South, where workers get less pay, lower worker compensation benefits, and are less unionized. On the other hand, the report points to higher injury reporting and fewer fatalities in workplaces in the West where wages and benefits are higher, unions are stronger and there are more inspections.

“We were surprised by the relationship between fatal and nonfatal injuries,” said John Mendeloff, lead author of the study and a senior policy researcher with RAND. “One key factor influencing injury trends seems to be the scope of benefits offered by a state’s workers’ compensation program, but that explains only part of what we found.”

The research points to workers reporting more injuries in states with higher worker’s compensation benefits, suggesting the higher payouts create an incentive to report more injuries.

The study, published in the April issue of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, seems to also suggest  that a safety program where more injuries are reported is more effective. Mendeloff proposes the trend suggests two things, first, that reporting might be a sign of a more effective, more honest worker safety program. Second, the low non-fatal injury rates in states with high worker fatality rates may suggest underreporting of injuries and less effective worker safety programs.

The study found that the construction industry has the largest number of fatalities among all industrial sectors.

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