July 18, 2011
By Joel Shufro
According to a report issued May 1, 2011 by the New York City Department of Law, 15,079, city workers received workers’ compensation for job-related injuries and illnesses in 2010, an increase of 4.5% over 2010. The cost of medical treatment, wage replacement and associated administrative costs was $12,611,059.
In addition, according to the New York City Independent Budget Office, the City paid a total $166,161,528 last year to workers who were injured on the job in the past.
While $12.6 million is a drop in the budget in comparison to the total city budget, the loss to the city is much greater. When the indirect costs of injuries and illnesses are taken into account (down time, recruiting, training and re-training, etc.), the costs to the city are 3 to 10 times greater. In addition, the costs of many of workplace injuries and illnesses are a recurring cost to the city paid out for many years. $166 million paid out annually over 20 years is nearly $3.5 billion – and if you add the indirect costs of you’re talking of $10 to $30 billion – not an insignificant sum of money.
The numbers demonstrate that the City needs a safety and health program to reduce workplace injuries and illness. These injuries and illnesses can be prevented. While some of the City agencies have programs to reduce injuries and illnesses using data collected under the public sector safety and health law, the City refuses to analyze the workers’ compensation data it collects which would allow it to develop programs to target agencies or job titles which have high rates of injury and/or illness. In fact, the City has no program at all designed to systemically reduce workplace injuries and illnesses.
By targeting unsafe jobs and eliminating workplace hazards, the City could reduce recurring costs in the future, increase worker productivity, job satisfaction and reduce human suffering. The failure of the City to implement a proactive program to reduce the rate of workplace injuries and illnesses is unfortunate. Major corporations thought the country have reduced the costs associated with workplace injuries and illnesses by hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars.
To develop a program to systematically identify and reduce workplace injuries and illnesses is a win-win strategy for the City and its workers. Reducing workplace injuries and illnesses is the most effective manner of improving the quality of the lives of the working people it employs, while at the same time increasing the productivity of the City’s workforce. Developing programs to identify and eliminate would be an important step in dealing with reducing the long-term costs of facing New York City’s government and promoting public health.