WMSD Claim Tracking
What are work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs)?
WMSDs are conditions that disturb or disrupt the functions of the musculoskeletal system, and are caused or exacerbated by work. These conditions typically affect soft tissues such as joints, nerves, tendons, ligaments, muscles, blood vessels, cartilage, or spinal discs. WMSDs can be painful and debilitating.
WMSDs occur when the physical requirements (intensity, frequency, and duration) of the job exceed the physical capacity of the human body. WMSDs are generally caused by overuse or overexertion, repetitive motions or postures, unnatural positions, and/or vibration. WMSDs do not include injuries resulting from impact, such as falls, struck by or against, cuts, or motor vehicle crashes.
WMSDs often develop gradually over time, with an accumulation of exposures leading to wear and tear on the body. WMSDs may also appear as an immediate effect of certain exposures, more common with high-force exertions.
- Back sprains (injury to ligaments) and strains (injury to muscles or tendons).
- Carpal tunnel syndrome (the compression of the median nerve in the wrist).
- Epicondylitis (swelling of the tendon at the elbow).
- Rotator cuff syndrome (swelling and tearing of the tendons around the shoulder).
- Sciatica (pain radiating from the lower back to below the knee).
Why do we track WMSDs?
WMSDs are the leading type of occupational injury in Washington State. They are costly to workers and their families, industry, and the workers’ compensation system. We track WMSD trends and patterns to identify areas of need and make recommendations for prevention.
How do we track WMSDs?
The Washington State Labor and Industries workers’ compensation system is the primary data source we use for tracking WMSDs. This system captures all workers’ compensation claims submitted in the state. We identify workers’ compensation claims for WMSDs using the Occupational Injury and Illness Classification System (OIICS) or the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) with Clinical Modification (CM) codes.
Not all WMSDs can be captured using the workers’ compensation system. WMSDs not medically treated, or those treated but not paid for by workers’ compensation (e.g., out of pocket, private insurance or federal programs) are not captured here.
WMSD claims snapshots
Selected report tables in xlsx:
WMSD claims by risk class
WMSD claims by NAICS sector
WMSD claims by NAICS industry group
WMSD claims by NAICS industry
Marcum J and Adams D (2017). Work-related musculoskeletal disorder surveillance using the Washington state workers’ compensation system: Recent declines and patterns by industry, 1999-2013. American Journal of Industrial Medicine DOI: 10.1002/ajim.22708. Research Findings
Silverstein B, Viikari-Juntura E, and Kalat, J (2002). Use of a prevention index to identify industries at high risk for work-related musculoskeletal disorders of the neck, back, and upper extremity in Washington State, 1990-1998. American Journal of Industrial Medicine DOI: 10.1002/ajim.10054.
Work-related musculoskeletal disorder (WMSD) claim rates by Washington Risk Classification and the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), Washington State, 2016–2020.
Prepared by L&I/SHARP to accompany discussion of proposed Senate Bill 5217, January 2023.
* Update, December 2023: SB 5217 was passed by the Washington State Legislature and adopted into law. This information is historical.
Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSD) are common. Risks for WMSDs vary across industries. These data provide WMSD claim rates from the Washington workers’ compensation system. The rates are for ‘compensable’ claims which are those that typically involve expenses beyond medical expenses such as wage replacement, or disability payments. Both employers insured through the state fund and who are self-insured are included in these data. The rate of compensable claims, expressed as the number of compensable claims per 1,000 full-time equivalent workers, is provided for the Washington workers’ compensation risk classifications, and three levels of the North American Industry Classification System - industry sector, industry group and industry. A comparison measure of the industry’s rate to the overall state workers’ compensable WMSD claim rate, a ‘rate ratio’ is provided.
1. Research reports describing the WMSD case definition and WMSD claim data are available at https://lni.wa.gov/safety-health/safety-research/ongoing-projects/wmsd-claim-tracking#publications
2. State level estimates of the overall compensable claim rate by risk classification and North American Industry Classification are slightly different due to a small number of workers’ compensation accounts without NAICS codes. If these data are used for legislation the overall compensable claim rate will be based on the final language of the legislation.
3. The NAICS code represents the employer’s primary economic activity although some employers have business activities that may encompass multiple industry classifications. The industrial classification of some businesses may evolve over time.
4. One full-time equivalent employee (FTE) is 2,000 hours. Rate ratios were calculated from unrounded rate data (rates presented in table are rounded to tenths place). These are not actuarial estimates.
5. NAICS reference edition is 2007 (https://www.census.gov/naics/?58967?yearbck=2007). Washington State Risk Classifications are similar in concept to NCCI Coding. Washington classifications are defined in administrative code - https://apps.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=296-17A