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Current Trends Occupational Finger Injuries -- United States, 1982

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, in collaboration with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, surveys occupational injuries treated at a representative sample of hospital emergency rooms in the United States (1,2). These data permit estimates of the number of persons treated for occupational injuries, secular trends in incidence, anatomical site of the injury, rates of injury by age and sex (in conjunction with data on employment) (3), and other epidemiologic indices.

From January 1, to December 31, 1982, an estimated 3,199,359 patients with occupational injuries were treated in hospital emergency rooms in the United States (Table 1). Of these, an estimated 823,343 (25.7%) were treated for finger injuries. Of the 823,343, an estimated 13,500 (1.6%) suffered amputation of one or more fingers.

Estimated incidence rates for occupational finger injuries, based on estimated numbers of persons injured per "100 person work years"* by sex and age, were also calculated (Table 2). Although the differences between groups varied widely, the overall ratio of injury incidence rates for males to injury incidence rates for females approximates 1.5.

Available information on the nature of the injury and the agent or source causing the injury permits listing by nature and source, which provides some understanding of the epidemiology of these injuries. The 10 listings of nature and source observed most commonly in occupational finger injuries account for 37.8% of all such injuries (Table 3). Lacerations caused by knives were the most frequent single cause, accounting for more than 10% of occupational injuries to fingers, followed by puncture wounds from hypodermic needles. Reported by Div of Safety Research, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, CDC.

Editorial Note

Editorial Note: These surveillance data emphasize the immensity of the problem of occupational injuries. Because the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) through which these data were collected includes neither patients seen in industrial clinics nor physicians' offices, the estimates produced are underestimates. It is not unreasonable to assume that, if all sources of care were included in the reporting system, a million or more workers were treated for significant finger injuries in 1982. The young male worker appears to be at highest risk; rates for those under 20 years of age are five to six times higher than rates for workers over 35 years of age. Among young workers, rates for males far exceed those for females, although rates by sex are similar for persons in age groups 35 to 64 years.

Available information about the nature and source of these injuries confirms that they occur in a wide array of industries, including construction, food processing, health-care delivery, and transportation. Hypodermic needles, knives, slicers, and/or choppers account for nearly 22% of all occupational finger injuries. Since these objects are specifically designed and used to puncture or cut, efforts to find measures for preventing these injuries pose a special challenge. These observations indicate the need for descriptive epidemiologic investigations of occupational injuries to formulate appropriate and effective means of prevention.


  1. CDC. Occupational injury surveillance--United States. MMWR 1981;30:578-9.

  2. CDC. Surveillance of occupational injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms--United States. MMWR 1983;32:89-90.

  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment and earnings series. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Labor, 1982;29.

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