Washington SB5566, passed in the State Senate on March 5, has implications far beyond the actual benefits paid to injured individuals. In a previous column in this forum I discussed how this bill could scam unsuspecting workers with inadequate legal representation out of receiving benefits they deserve. This report reveals the enormous costs being run up because workers are under pressure to a degree that leads to the filing of injury claims.
The data on the costs to workers compensation based on accident type is located in this spreadsheet:
Sorting this data by accident type and summing for the overexertion accident type, the result is $178,166,040. The sum for all accident types is $658,060,979. Overexertion represented 27% of the cost of workers compensation.
Employees are either forced to do more than they can handle or motivated by fear of losing their jobs or competition for performance review to overexert themselves to the point of injury. Weakening workers compensation will only allow this type of abuse to continue.
Reducing workers compensation benefits will allow the problem of workplace injuries to persist. It will provide a disincentive to design work assignments in a manner that is protective of health and safety.
It seems that the shorter work week and longer vacation allotments common in Europe provide the dual benefits of spreading employment throughout the population and lowering unemployment while
avoiding the workers compensation costs resulting from overexertion.
In order to lower the costs in the state workers compensation system it is necessary to address the problem of the pressure placed on employees to overwork to the point where they ruin their health and have to file injury claims.