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Accident Curve And Natural Disasters – Spike in Workers Comp Claims


Accident Curve And Natural Disasters

The accident curve measures the accident rate lessening per unit of work time.   The concept has been debated over time.   A search far and wide located a 1916 text that actually addressed this issue very well.  Please see the last two sets of bullet points below.    The picture is of Hurricane Isabel.

Hurricane Isabel Accident Curve from space
Wikimedia Commons License

The learning curve measures how long it takes for a person to learn a new task.   The accident curve measures how many accidents happen in the first few hours someone works with a new machine or performs a new task.

I performed an informal study on the accident rates of claims that I was handling post-Hurricane Hugo.   After two months, the claim numbers spiked and then returned to normal.   Most of the injured workers were new to the construction industry.  They were involved with the hurricane recovery efforts for many months.

We have all heard the expression “90% of the accidents occur the first time someone uses a tool/machine” or the first time a person performs a completely new task.

Hendersons law is:


  • C1 is the cost of the first unit of production
  • Cn is the cost of the n-th unit of production
  • n is the cumulative volume of production
  • a is the elasticity of cost with regard to output

A few classes I attended to complete my actuarial degree covered the learning curve heavily.   The application centered around production.  Safety did not seem to be an issue.   However, the learning curve is a the crux of a safe workplace.    Hands-on training reduces workers comp accidents or their severity by exposing the workers to a learning curve with a person or persons that have long since handled the type of  new task.

The actual formula uses  logarithms to estimated the time it will take someone to complete the task.  A very astute scientist derived an accident curve from the formula.   However, they derived the accident curve from actual hands-on measurement in manufacturing plants.    You will need to refer to the bottom page 127 of this old but still relevant text.   The text is included below justifying the accident curve consideration.   The studies were conducted on very heavy labor iron and steel plants.


Car Accident Curve Sheriff Behind

It is generally recognized that inexperience is one of the most important elements in the causation of industrial accidents. What has not been sufficiently realized is the close parallelism of the rates of accidents and of inexperience.  The industrial risks of beginners have been shown to be high Interesting testimony on this subject is given in the iron and steel report already quoted.

A table giving the incidence of accidents to press hands beginning work on the machine shows that on the first day of employment:

  • More than 5 times as many were injured as during all the rest of the first week
  • 26 times as many as from the second week to the end of the first month
  • 100 times as many as from the second through the sixth month

One can presume the figures indicate a six-month employee is 100 times less likely to have an accident as the first day employee. 

Another table covering longer periods of employment shows the accident frequency rates per 1,000 workers at a steel plant falling from the exceedingly high rate of

  • 111.3 per 1,000 in the first six months through
  • increasing lengths of service to 19.7 for from 5 to 10 years and to
  • zero after 15 years.

The book did not mention the level of training in these cases.   One would have to guess that it was strictly on-the-job-training.    I was going to construct a few graphs but the numbers speak for themselves.

I would love to dig into this further, but I have to get this article proofread, published and then publish a weekly newsletter.

Related: Combined Ratio Difference Debate – Calendar vs. Accident Year

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James J Moore - Workers Comp Expert

Raleigh, NC, United States

About The Author...

James founded a Workers’ Compensation consulting firm, J&L Risk Management Consultants, Inc. in 1996. J&L’s mission is to reduce our clients’ Workers Compensation premiums by using time-tested techniques. J&L’s claims, premium, reserve and Experience Mod reviews have saved employers over $9.8 million in earned premiums over the last three years. J&L has saved numerous companies from bankruptcy proceedings as a result of insurance overpayments.

James has over 27 years of experience in insurance claims, audit, and underwriting, specializing in Workers’ Compensation. He has supervised, and managed the administration of Workers’ Compensation claims, and underwriting in over 45 states. His professional experience includes being the Director of Risk Management for the North Carolina School Boards Association. He created a very successful Workers’ Compensation Injury Rehabilitation Unit for school personnel.

James’s educational background, which centered on computer technology, culminated in earning a Masters of Business Administration (MBA); an Associate in Claims designation (AIC); and an Associate in Risk Management designation (ARM). He is a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) and a licensed financial advisor. The NC Department of Insurance has certified him as an insurance instructor. He also possesses a Bachelors’ Degree in Actuarial Science.

LexisNexis has twice recognized his blog as one of the Top 25 Blogs on Workers’ Compensation. J&L has been listed in AM Best’s Preferred Providers Directory for Insurance Experts – Workers Compensation for over eight years. He recently won the prestigious Baucom Shine Lifetime Achievement Award for his volunteer contributions to the area of risk management and safety. James was recently named as an instructor for the prestigious Insurance Academy.

James is on the Board of Directors and Treasurer of the North Carolina Mid-State Safety Council. He has published two manuals on Workers’ Compensation and three different claims processing manuals. He has also written and has been quoted in numerous articles on reducing Workers’ Compensation costs for public and private employers. James publishes a weekly newsletter with 7,000 readers.

He currently possess press credentials and am invited to various national Workers Compensation conferences as a reporter.

James’s articles or interviews on Workers’ Compensation have appeared in the following publications or websites:

  • Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS)
  • Entrepreneur Magazine
  • Bloomberg Business News
  • WorkCompCentral.com
  • Claims Magazine
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  • Insurance Journal
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