From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Work Injury/Illness Causation: the Picture Becomes More Complete

Low family income and rural living location were two demographic characteristics found to be associated with the occurrence of work related injury/illness as revealed by the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY).


While no association was found between work injury/illness and black race, Hispanic ethnicity, home ownership, being foreign-born, and low educational attainment, the income and living location characteristics do help reiterate that work-related injuries are multi-factorial.


The NLSY is a national, biannual study sponsored by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  It began in 1979 identifying and following an original sample of 12,686 subjects 14 to 22 years old.  Using interviews, the survey collects an assortment of personal, demographic, employment, and work history characteristics not included in standard workers’ compensation and OSHA 300 log data.  The authors analyzed information from the 1998 NLSY that included 7,271 individuals 33 to 41 years old.


The survey also found job factors related to a work injury/illness included working in a high-hazard occupation, job dissatisfaction, and exposure to hazardous job activities (expending a high amount of physical effort on the job, lifting or carrying more than 10 pounds, using stairs and inclines, kneeling or crouching, reaching, and hearing special sounds such as signals and directional indicators).


Additionally, the survey noted that the work-related injury/illness causation picture continues to be hazy.  The temporal sequence of exposure to hazardous job factors, onset of psychosocial conditions and the occurrence of work injury/injury is not well documented.  Family income, though related to work-related injury/illness, may mean an individual has a greater likelihood of performing a hazardous job/job duties, eating a poor diet, obtaining inferior health care, or being exposed to community health hazards.  



Dembe AE, J B Erickson, and R Delbos. “Predictors of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses: National Survey Findings.” Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene 1: 542-550, 2004.

This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2004-10-26.