More Maryland Essential Workers Were Hurt on the Job in 2021 Than Before the Pandemic
Recently the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC) released its annual report containing claim data, regulatory updates, and details on agency changes. The report, which covers the fiscal year July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021, fulfills a legislative mandate to provide the public with consistent updates on trends and statistics impacting injured workers.
Fewer Injuries Overall
As outlined in the report, claim filing patterns in the Covid-19 era have shifted significantly. The total number of Maryland work comp claims filed in fiscal years 2021(FY21) and 2020 (FY20) was 21,842 and 21,706, respectively. These totals are a pronounced decrease from the 25,586 claims filed in fiscal year 2019 (FY19), the last year before the pandemic. The notable decline in injury claims can likely be attributed to the widespread adoption of lockdowns and telework over the past two years as a tactic to contain the virus. More people staying home means an overall reduction in some common work injury risks such as slip and falls – and fewer claims filed as a result.
But More Essential Workers Are Getting Hurt
While Maryland work comp filings have dropped overall from pre-pandemic levels, some industries have seen a steady rise in claims from FY19 to FY21. According to the report, truckers, warehouse associates, and nursing home employees – who have been classified as “essential workers” keeping the frontlines of society functioning in the pandemic era – saw their claim filings increase steadily over the last three years. The summary chart below outlines the claim count and corresponding percentage of total claims filed for these three fields from FY19 to FY21:
Industry FY19 FY20 FY21
|Warehouse Workers||Count: 736
|Nursing Home Employees||Count: 683
As illustrated by the chart, Maryland essential workers employed in the trucking, warehouse, and nursing home industries all reported increased injuries during the pandemic. Truckers experienced a 1.2% jump in filed claims from FY19 to FY21, while warehouse workers and nursing home employees saw their claim filings increase by 1.4% during the same period. The three industries combined accounted for roughly 14% of total claims filed in Maryland for FY21, compared to 10% of total Maryland claims filed in FY19.
Risk Factors Increased During the Pandemic
Essential workers who typically don’t have the luxury of a home office face heightened dangers in the pandemic era. Not only do their public-facing job duties increase the chances of contracting Covid-19, but they are also more at risk of developing mental health issues due to long hours, staffing issues, and increased consumer demand. The risks of traumatic bodily injuries are also more likely. Healthcare workers, including nursing home employees, have reported increased levels of physical violence from facility patients and visitors during the pandemic. Warehouse associates – particularly those working for the online retail giant Amazon – are reportedly laboring under dangerous conditions to fulfill increased pandemic era order quotas. And truck drivers, who have long had one of the highest occupational fatalities rates, face new stressors due to supply chain shortages and surging levels of online shopping.
The added perils for essential employees aren’t limited to the workplace. They are also at risk while traveling to and from their jobs on the most dangerous roads in decades. We recently examined a pandemic era phenomenon of increased car crash fatalities following decades of steadily improving roadway safety. According to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 31,720 motor vehicle accident deaths in the first nine months of 2021 – a significant uptick from the 28,325 deaths in 2020. Experts attribute the inflated death rates to widespread pandemic-related “social disengagement” that manifests as riskier motorist behavior. And essential workers, who typically must commute to work, are putting their lives on the line every day when they get on the road.
Warnken, LLC has represented many injured Maryland essential workers. Even before the pandemic, the firm saw firsthand how severely a workplace or motor vehicle accident can disrupt the injured workers’ life. “Covid-19 has made it even more dangerous for Maryland nursing home employees, truck drivers, and Amazon warehouse associates to make a living,” said Managing Attorney Byron Warnken. And if statistical trends in the latest WCC report persist, they will continue to face unique hazards for the duration of the pandemic.