Workplace injury rate down but disability benefit claims increase

North Carolina workers may be relieved to hear that over the past few decades, the number of workplace accidents resulting in non-fatal injuries has declined steadily. According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 3.5 nonfatal workplace injuries or illnesses per 100 workers in 2010, compared to 11 in 1973. However, these numbers stand in contrast to the increasing number of workers collecting Social Security Disability benefits.

According to a Wall Street report, the number of people collecting disability benefits is not only increasing, it is increasing at an alarming rate compared to an increase in workplace safety over the years. A chief investment officer at a private bank states that the percentage of people across the country claiming disability benefits was constant for 22 years up until about a decade ago–then it started increasing at a 4.5 percent annual clip. This translates to one worker among every 12 on disability.

With the injury incidence rate decreasing and the number of workers in manual labor jobs (i.e., those with a greater chance of sustaining a workplace injury) down to 14 percent from 25 percent in 1973, some people, like this investment officer, may question the increasing number of disability claims.

However, it is important to take into account the repetitive stress injuries office workers suffer. These are actually among the fastest growing types of workplace injuries, and any worker who regularly engages in repetitive motion, lifts heavy objects or even sits for long periods in awkward positions is at an increased risk of a repetitive stress injury. Such injury victims may find it difficult or even impossible to carry out otherwise simple tasks, and in some cases a repetitive stress injury can prevent a worker from performing the functions of the job.

North Carolina workers suffering an injury requiring Social Security disability benefits should consider filing a claim, as is their right.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Disability claims rise even as work injuries decline,” Walter Hamilton, Aug. 22, 2012

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