From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Geographic Analysis Reveals Work-Related Injury/Illness Hot Spots in USA

Be careful where you live. According to a recent Johns Hopkins study, the rate of work-related injury/illness that required time away from work or reassigned duties is much higher in West Virginia-Kentucky, Michigan-Wisconsin, Northern New England and Northern California.

The findings were based on five years of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Survey of Occupational Injury and Illness (SOII), which involved over 200,000 businesses. The analysis also revealed that New England, California and Michigan-Wisconsin experienced higher average rates of Lost Workday from Injury/Illness (LWDII) within local industries when compared to the same industries located in other areas. Southern states tended to show the opposite phenomena – lower average rates of LWDII within local industries compared to the same industries in other regions of the country.

The authors suggest that rate discrepancies across the country may be due to underreporting in select geographic regions; fostered by economic, demographic, political and social forces.

The Bottom Line – How This Applies To Ergonomists
From a national safety perspective, an awareness of region-influenced LWDII provides status information to indicate needs/priorities for prevention programs.

For the ergonomist responsible for a regional entity, this research shows how his/her industry ranks relative to other local area businesses, and relative to similar industries across the country. For the ergonomist responsible for a national company program, the information can provide insight as to potential regional needs, risk factors, and issues.

Study Method
For the years 1997 through 2001, industry LWDII rates – injury/illness that required time away from work or reassigned duties per 100 full time equivalent workers – were drawn from the Bureau of Labor Statistics SOII.

The county location of each company was determined (2,657 of the 3,141 US counties were represented). The mean LWDII for each county was calculated.

A predicted county LWDII rate, called the Index of Area Industry Hazard, was calculated.  This was done by determining the mean LWDII rate for each industry (based on Sic code) from the data within the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Survey. The businesses included in the Survey from a given county were assigned the mean LWDII rate for their specific industry. The county “expected” mean LWDII was then ciphered. This calculation was year specific.

The actual and “expected” mean LWDII was compared on a county and state level.

Other Points
Geographic based surveillance is commonly used in the public health discipline to define and evaluate concerns.

By county, the range of mean LWDII was from 0 to 25.2 days with an overall mean of 7.2 days.

Study Limitations
Although approximately 80,000 United States businesses complete the Survey on a yearly basis, the quality of the picture it presents is affected by only considering:
• businesses with over 40-60 employees
• businesses with the highest injury/illness rates plus all manufacturing industries
• non-construction businesses
• non-mining businesses
• non-government businesses

Article Title: Just in the Wrong Place…?: Geographic Tools for Occupational Injury/Illness Surveillance

Publication: American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 51, 680-690, 2008

Authors: R A Neff, F C Curriero, and T A Burke

This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2008-11-19.