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October 30, 2018

Cumulative Trauma (CT) Claims Cost Impact and Office Ergonomics - Connecting the Dots

Cumulative Trauma

A new study on Cumulative Trauma (CT) Claims was released in October of 2018 by the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau (WCIRB of California.  The WCIRB is California’s trusted, objective provider of actuarially-based research integral to a healthy workers’ compensation system. This report provides detailed analytics around the world of CT claims in California including how they are different from specific injury claims. The study also identifies the drivers behind the 50 percent CT claim rate increases in California since 2008.


We thought this study would be interesting to our health and safety professionals focused on office ergonomics, reducing musculoskeletal injuries, operational risk, and case management. The information in this study provides some interesting facts and figures on costs related to the CT claims, including legal, medical, pharmaceutical, and others.


Workers’ compensation injuries commonly occur as a result of a single incident or exposure. That exposure or incident causes disability or need for medical treatment and is referred to as a specific” injury claim. This study, however, focuses on worker compensation injuries that occur due to repetitive mentally or physically traumatic activities extending over a period of time known as cumulative trauma claims. 


Our interest in shining a light on this study is to help health and safety professional connect the dots to the short and longer-term potential cost impact of repetitive strain injuries. Leading organizations with large numbers of office employees have put in place office ergonomics programs to help reduce cost and, more importantly, make sure their employees do not suffer in silence. 


Chart 23 of the report calls out “CT claim ratios in the Outside Sales & Clerical industries are typically higher than other sectors as they incur more carpal tunnel claims.” The ability of your organization to assess many of your office workers especially in your remote and home offices is impossible without enabling technology that makes it easy to train office workers and help them self-correct. 


Chart 39 provides the Top 7 Diagnoses for CT Claims that covers 34.4 percent of all diagnoses. It also provides a comparison to the top seven non-CT claims. 


Diagnoses for CT Claims 

Percent of Transactions 

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome 


Neck Sprain  


Hand/Wrist Tenosynovitis 


Wrist Sprain  


Lateral Epicondylitis  


Shoulder/Arm Sprain  


Lumbar Region Sprain  



In the claims characteristics section, WCIRB conducts several surveys of CT claims to understand their characteristics more fully. The surveys found that “CT claims are significantly more likely than other indemnity claims to be represented, filed post-termination of the employee." In other words, your office ergonomics program can serve to document your organization is utilizing best practice safety measures for office workers to prevent repetitive strain injuries.


Having a program and the digital backup to prove you were training and monitoring could be important to defending claims post-separation. It also points out “fully denied CT claims still end up costing over $10,000 on average and many remain open even after five years.” So enterprise-wide prevention of work-related musculoskeletal disorders is your best course of action. To enable proactive prevention, we suggest a web-based ergonomics software solution to measure ergonomic process and generate improved ergonomics data. 


To see firsthand how web-based office ergonomics software can help you proactively protect your employees, contact us for your free demo today. 




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