A study of occupational injuries in workers with disabilities was conducted. The purpose of the study was to test the hypothesis that workers with disabilities, especially those with hearing and visual impairments, are at increased risk for sustaining an occupational injury. Data were taken from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) for the period 1985 to 1994 to identify all 18 to 65 year (yr) subjects who worked full time during the year preceding each survey in occupations other than farming. Information on injuries sustained at work during the preceding year that caused a residual limitation on the subjects' ability to work and the presence of any impairment or health problem that prevented them from working or limited the amount of work they could do was obtained. Associations between demographic variables, impairments, and medical conditions of the subjects and occupational injuries were assessed by logistic regression techniques. A total of 459,827 subjects who participated in the NHIS during the 10yr study period were included in the analysis. Male, younger workers, and Hispanic workers had a higher risk for occupational injury than the other participants. Occupations that involved physical exertion had higher risks for injury than those who did not. Subjects who were self employed, 7.38% of the sample, had a lower injury risk than those who worked for others. Age had little effect on injury risk. Approximately 4.80% of all subjects had a baseline disability that impaired their ability to work. Of these, 14.9% had disabilities caused by a previous occupational injury. After adjusting for specific occupation, self employment, and age, a previous work disability, blindness, deafness, hearing impairment, upper extremity impairment, and arthritis were significantly associated with an increased risk for occupational injury, odds ratios (ORS) = 1.36, 3.21, 2.19, 1.55, 1.46, and 1.34, respectively. Having a visual impairment was not a significant risk factor for occupational injury, OR = 1.37. The authors conclude that workers with disabilities, especially those with sensory impairments, appear to be at increased risk for sustaining an occupational injury. Efforts should be made to improve workplace accommodations for workers with these disabilities.
Prev Med & Environmental Hlth University of Iowa 100 Oakdale Campus, 124 Amrf Iowa City, IA 52242-5000