Compensation claims and strains – is AI the solution?
Gareth Buchanan COO at Soter Analytics suggests Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be the answer to the UK’s workplace injury crisis.
The UK’s economy is losing an astounding £18.8 billion each year – equivalent to 1.2% of its GDP – due to preventable workplace injuries. The figures are staggering: 123 work-related fatalities and 565,000 injured employees in 2021/22, with half of these injuries being musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), further draining £2.3 billion from the economy.
The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) annual report highlights the concerning trends in workers’ compensation claims, which amounted to 394,000 cases in 2021, costing £1.5 billion. The most prevalent injuries are MSDs at 50%, followed by head, face, and neck injuries at 20%. The UK must act now to secure its workforce and economy.
With 144 workplace fatalities in 2021, the main culprits being falls from a height (28%) and being struck by moving objects (20%), the HSE’s data is essential for understanding and mitigating risks in high-risk sectors such as agriculture, construction, and healthcare, among others. These industries are notorious for exposing workers to physical hazards and often employ seasonal workers who may lack proper safety training.
Taking the strain
Another leading cause of injuries is improper lifting, which often results in musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). The repercussions of MSDs on the UK economy are far-reaching:
Workers with MSDs are more prone to taking time off work, leading to decreased output.
- MSDs can significantly impair an individual’s ability to work and earn income, affecting both their livelihood and the economy.
- Workers with MSDs are more prone to taking time off work, leading to decreased output.
- High medical treatment costs for MSDs strain both individuals and the healthcare system.
- MSDs can drastically reduce affected individuals’ quality of life, leading to further declines in productivity and increased healthcare costs.
Workplace injuries have far-reaching consequences beyond the physical impact on employees. These injuries often affect the injured workers’ families and employers, causing emotional distress, financial losses, and increased workers’ compensation costs.
A recent study using real-world employee data at Rolls-Royce revealed that despite employing industry-leading occupational health systems, employees with work-relevant persistent musculoskeletal pain experienced significantly higher rates of health referrals, mental health-related referrals, sickness absence days, and associated costs. These outcomes have a direct impact on business performance and productivity, highlighting the importance of optimizing employee health management programs and workplace adaptations.
Several factors contribute to the rising workers’ compensation costs in the UK:
- Older workers are more prone to work-related injuries due to potential health issues and reduced physical fitness.
- As jobs become more physically demanding, workers are at a higher risk of injuries.
- The use of computers and electronic devices can lead to repetitive strain injuries.
- Temporary and agency workers are less familiar with the workplace and often lack proper training, these workers are more susceptible to injuries.
- With potentially limited safety protection and health insurance access, self-employed workers face a higher risk of work-related injuries.
Prevalence and cost
CREDIT: Arcus/Alamy Stock Photo
Strains are injuries to muscles or tendons, usually caused by overexertion, poor posture, or repetitive movements. They are common in the workplace, particularly in physically demanding jobs, and can lead to substantial time off work, reduced productivity, and increased WC payments.
In a recent study analysing workers’ compensation (WC) data from a large insurance provider in the USA, despite the mean payments for individual strain-related claims being lower than other types of injuries, such as amputations or ruptures, due to the high frequency the study’s results underscore the significance of strains as the leading cost burden. As we seek to address the soaring injury rates and look to the future, AI technology is poised to play a pivotal role in injury prevention. Leading companies such as Wincanton, Auchan, Grohe, IKEA, and DHL are seeing results from incorporating AI-driven safety technology into their safety procedures and training for preventing MSDs, complementing their existing strategies, and using objective data to pinpoint high-risk areas.
While reducing injuries is crucial, the additional benefits of improved productivity and substantial cost savings cannot be ignored. The initial investment in AI often pays for itself within 12 months.
How can AI assist?
- AI provides tailored, data-driven interventions that can be scaled and distributed across various locations and job sites.
- AI can deliver individualized training to workers, focusing on their specific needs and helping them move safely on the job. This approach limits downtime and enables workers to practice improvement techniques within the context of their real work activities.
- AI technology can incite permanent behavioral change by using scientifically proven biofeedback awareness indicators. This helps workers become more aware of their movements and posture, enabling them to adopt safer practices.
- AI encourages workers to take responsibility for their safety by actively engaging them in their training and providing real-time feedback. This approach fosters a stronger safety culture within the organisation.
- AI provides data-driven insights for continuous improvements. The valuable datasets help identify the strengths and weaknesses of safety efforts, enabling organisations to make informed decisions for long-term risk management and injury prevention.
- Enhances early intervention and preventative measures. AI technology allows for early identification of potentially hazardous job tasks, prompting proactive requests from workers to assess risk profiles before an injury occurs. This proactive approach leads to the adoption of protective behaviors and safer postures as workers learn about their own risk.
- AI empowers organizations to allocate existing injury management resources towards preventative measures and early intervention, making data-driven changes to risk levels based on injury reduction data.
The future is now
By harnessing the power of AI and embracing proactive safety measures, the UK can foster a safer work environment, protect its workforce, and bolster its economy.
Addressing the frequency of strains and other musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace is crucial for reducing the financial burden on the workers’ compensation system and improving overall workplace safety.
Through a combination of innovative AI technologies, targeted interventions, and a commitment to creating safer work environments, the UK can effectively tackle the injury crisis, enhance productivity, and ensure a thriving economy for years to come.