On what should a company concentrate its efforts? To find out, Liberty Mutual, one of the nation’s largest workers’ compensation insurers, investigated data from 35,790 construction industry claims from 1996.

The average disability duration was 46 days. The longest durations were caused by sudden-onset injuries including fractures of the ankle, foot and wrist. Falls and struck-bys were the most common causes of these injuries.

However, the most frequently occurring injuries were low back pain (15%), foreign body eye injuries (8.5%) and finger lacerations (4.8%).

Back pain accounted for the greatest percentage of construction claim costs (21.3%) and disability days (25.5%). Manual materials handling activities were the most common cause of low back pain disability.

Ergonomic interventions-reducing loads, presenting them at mechanically advantageous heights or using mechanical materials handling systems-could substantially reduce low back injuries and disability. Better fall prevention measures and training would reduce fractures.

Courtney TK, Matz, S, Webster BS, “Disabling Occupational Injury in the US Construction Industry, 1996,” Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 2002; 44:1161-1168.

[Steve Clark]