Report: Trucking industry draws high workplace injuries, costs

Truck drivers experience some of the highest rates of workplace injuries in Washington state, according to a new report from the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I).

The report, “Preventing Injuries in the Trucking Industry Focus,” includes information to help employers reduce common workplace hazards. L&I has produced companion tip sheets, posters and other educational materials to help prevent trucking-industry injuries.

The report covers the years 1997-2005 and concludes that Washington’s trucking industry experiences $265 million in claims each year for musculoskeletal disorders, the general term for injuries to muscles, tendons and joints.

Vehicle-collision injuries are also expensive for the trucking industry, averaging $46,500 per claim, though the injuries occur far less frequently than musculoskeletal disorders.

“Injury rates in trucking are far above the state average for all industries combined,” said Barbara Silverstein, research director for SHARP, or Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention, the program that produced the report. “Given the importance of trucking to our economy, everyone in the industry needs to be working to prevent workplace injuries.”

Highlights from the report include:

— The trucking industry accounts for 10 percent of Washington state’s work-related fatalities. There were 63 fatalities among trucking industry employees between 1998 and 2005.

— Among Washington’s truck drivers, 1 in 13 is seriously injured on the job each year, resulting in a workers’ compensation claim for lost work time, as well as medical costs.

— From 1997 to 2005, there were more than 21,000 claims for lost work time and almost 38,000 medical-only claims in Washington’s trucking industry.

SHARP has been working with trucking industry leaders, safety and health professionals, and drivers to identify workplace hazards and low-cost, simple solutions.