Fit Employees Can Trim Workers' Comp Costs

July 12, 2001 ( - Employers may have another reason to encourage employees to stay fit, trim and healthy that $128 billion annual tab for workplace injuries.

A four-year study of Xerox Corp. workers has found a significant drop in the frequency and seriousness of workplace injuries among those who participate in a wellness program.

The workers studied had been employed full-time by Xerox since 1981 and were members of Blue Choice Health Maintenance Organization. Seventy-two percent were men, and their average age was 55, according to the Associate Press.

The health risk appraisal evaluated the workers’ health risks such as smoking, obesity, drug and alcohol use, high blood pressure, life and job dissatisfaction. It is designed to steer them toward a healthier lifestyle.

Fewer, Cheaper Workers Comp Claims

Of those who participated in the program, just 5.6% made workers’ compensation claims, compared with 8.9% of non-participants

And when they did get hurt on the job, the health appraisal participants had an average cost per injury of $6,506, compared with $9,482 for non-participants, the study found.

On-the-job injuries cost $125 billion in the United States, according to a 1999 estimate by the National Safety Council. That includes $62 billion in lost wages and productivity, $19.9 billion in medical costs and $16.7 billion in other employer costs.

Workers compensation insurance cost about $42.4 billion that year, the council said.

The study examined on-the-job injuries among 3,338 workers at a Xerox’s Rochester, N.Y., manufacturing complex from 1996 to 1999. The results were published in the July issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.