Background: Development of hernias among active workers is a major occupational problem, however, the work-relatedness of hernias has not been well investigated. It is a difficult question for occupational and primary care physicians who must often address whether a worker with an inguinal hernia should be restricted from work requiring lifting of heavy objects. Methods: To evaluate the possible work-relatedness of inguinal hernias, a cross-sectional study was performed. The goal of the study was to determine hernia incidence according to occupation with the Annual Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses from the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1994. Hernia incidence rates (per 10,000 workers) for industry and occupation categories were calculated with the estimates of the number of hernias in males and the employed male workers from the Current Population Survey. Rate ratios (RR) of hernia incidence rates were calculated. Results: In 1994, an estimated 30,791 work-related hernias in males were reported by US private establishments. The occupation groups with the highest RR were laborers and handlers (RR, 2.47; 95% confidence interval (CI), 2.14+/-2.80), machine operators (RR, 2.13; 95% CI, 1.81+/-2.44), and mechanics and repairers (RR, 1.72; 95% CI, 1.43+/-2.00). Conclusions: Rate ratios for hernias vary considerably within industries and occupations, with the highest ratios found in industries and occupations involving manual labor. This provides support for the hypothesis that the hernias are work-related, especially in work involving strenuous, heavy manual labor.
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