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January 15, 1997

Work-related musculoskeletal disorders cost millions

TUMWATER - What do roofers, garbage collectors, nursing home personnel and landscapers have in common? They are four of the 10 occupations having the highest incidence rate for work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). In Washington, an average of 44,648 MSD-related workers' compensation claims were filed each year in 1992, 1993 and 1994. The average cost per year: $167 million.

Musculoskeletal disorders include strains/sprains, joint inflammation, low back pain and nerve compression syndromes. They represent the largest group of occupational injuries and illnesses reported to the Department of Labor & Industries, which administers the state's workers' compensation system -- the "State Fund."

A new publication from Labor & Industries identifies industries with the highest incidence rates of MSDs. Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders, Washington State Summary 1992-1994 details the number, incidences, severity and costs of MSDs in each of the 303 State Fund risk classes. A risk class is a grouping of businesses or industries sharing common or similar exposures to work-related injury and illness. Labor & Industries assigns all businesses that pay industrial insurance premiums to risk classes.

Employers can use the data to compare their MSD incidence rate to the average for their risk class. An incidence rate twice the average for the class is considered high by Labor & Industries.

The publication is available by calling a local L&I office or the statewide safety hotline, 1-800-4BE-SAFE.

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