A group of us at work are concerned about the number of hand injuries from power tools. We are seeing people get hurt who never make it back to work. We are trying to put together some figures to help show our boss how much these injuries are costing all of us in terms of time off work, medical care, and worry. Are there any studies like that out there?
There is a recent study from the Mayo Clinic where the cost of electric saw injuries was calculated in terms of dollars and cents. Lost wages, physician charges, emergency room treatments, rehab, and hospitalization costs are some of the major costs incurred.
The study was done by reviewing the records of 134 patients who came to the Mayo Clinic, a regional medical center in Rochester, Minnesota. Data was collected on type of patients treated (age, gender, occupation, educational level) as well as on the type of injury (number of fingers involved, type of treatment, complications).
Time lost from work and the economic value of that factor was calculated as well. The authors used the mean income from Minnesota to make calculations for their patients. But they also used some additional figures to calculate the nationwide cost of electric saw hand injuries.
They further divided the patients into three groups based on the severity of the injury and analyzed the data from that perspective. The three groups were 1) minor lacerations without damage to nerves, blood vessels or tendons; 2) finger amputation (at least one) but without repair of the blood vessels or tendons); and 3) patients who could have the finger reattached or who needed microsurgery to repair tiny blood vessels, nerves, or tendons.
Most people in group one who were employed were off work for an average of three weeks. Lost wages were around $2,700. Medical costs were an additional $2,900. These numbers all increased for the second group with a 60-day time span before being able to return-to-work and triple the lost wages. Medical costs were six times higher than for the first group.
The third group experienced a delay in return-to-work of 125 days (four months). Lost wages were around $14,000 with average medical costs just above the $40,000 mark. When added all together for the three groups, the total economic costs of electric saw hand injuries were slightly more than four million dollars.
That's just from one study with a moderate number of patients included. And it didn't include chain saw accidents and injuries from hand-powered saws. Cost calculation also did not include emotional and psychologic costs or the cost of vocational retraining. But it's a good place to start.
You can also look into information provided by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. In 2003, they published a Hazard Screening Report with information on the number and type of injuries from on-the-job accidents. The report includes the cause of those accidents and the cost associated with them. Data is presented from comparisons taken in 1997 to 2001. Just in this four-year span of time, the number of emergency-room treated injuries from power tools increased dramatically.
It's always a good idea wherever you work to review safety precautions and procedures. Prevention of injuries is vitally important in avoiding the potentially devastating effects of these kinds of injuries. That's true whether they occur at work or at home.
Samuel C. Hoxie, MD, et al. The Economic Impact of Electric Saw Injuries to the Hand. In The Journal of Hand Surgery. May-June 2009. Vol. 34A. No. 5. Pp. 886-889.
*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.