Objectives: This study examined the claim incidence rate, cost, and industry distribution of work-related upper extremity disorders in Washington.
Methods: Washington State Fund workers' compensation claims from 1987 to 1995 were abstracted and categorized into general and specific disorders of gradual or sudden onset.
Results: Accepted claims included 100,449 for hand/wrist disorders (incidence rate: 98.2/10,000 full-time equivalents; carpal tunnel syndrome rate: 27.3), 30,468 for elbow disorders (incidence rate: 29.7; epicondylitis rate: 11.7), and 55,315 for shoulder disorders (incidence rate: 54.0; rotator cuff syndrome rate: 19.9). Average direct workers' compensation claims costs (medical treatment and indemnity) were $15,790 (median: $6774) for rotator cuff syndrome, $12,794 for carpal tunnel syndrome (median: $4190), and $6593 for epicondylitis (median: $534). Construction and food processing were among the industries with the highest rate ratios for all disorders (> 4.0).
Conclusions: Upper extremity disorders represent a large and costly problem in Washington State industry. Industries characterized by manual handling and repetitive work have high rate ratios. The contingent workforce appears to be at high risk.