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On-the-job inquiry: employment history and hidden losses.

Galizzi M
Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, K01-OH-007999, 2007 Nov; :1-64
Issues Addressed and Importance of the Problem: While official US statistics show that occupational injury rates have continuously declined since the early 1990s. The costs of such injuries have remained high with spending breaking $142 billion dollars in 2004. The calculations of these costs are usually based on estimates of earnings losses experienced by injured workers or on the amount of workers' compensation (WC) benefits that are being paid. This research has aimed to increase our knowledge about some additional hidden social and economic outcomes of workplace injuries. Approach: The main hypothesis of the study was that injuries cannot be studied as isolated events in workers' lives. Their consequences will largely depend on the individual's personal characteristics and pre-injury labor market experience. These factors, together with employers' characteristics, behaviors and working conditions, will then determine the potential long-lasting economic effects of the injury. Given its aims, the research proposal has used data that permit examination of workers' lives over a long period of time, both before and after the injury: the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 cohort is a nationally representative panel survey sponsored by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. These data were analyzed both through descriptive statistics and with cross-sectional and longitudinal econometric techniques. Key Findings: Workplace injuries have severe economic consequences that go beyond earnings losses. Income losses lead to a dramatic drop in wealth. Injuries also cause a decrease in consumption and increase the likelihood that workers will file for bankruptcy. Multiple injuries lead to a loss of health insurance. These outcomes suggest that current WC benefits may be inadequate. They may also reflect the fact that several workers with lost time injuries did not file for WC. Some injured workers also encountered difficulties in returning to work. Employment accommodation has become more likely since the introduction of the ADA but some workers still face layoffs or firing after an injury. These terminations were more common among minority workers and among workers who had filed a WC claim. Finally, the burden of occupational injuries is not randomly distributed. Workers who had experienced low socio-economic status in their teens carry this burden through their working lives: they face a higher likelihood of experiencing multiple occupational injuries. Longer working hours are also related to higher accident rates over individual working lives. How the Results Can Be Used: Workers should invest in more formal education and in longer employment relationships. This will diminish their exposure to occupational risks. Employers should provide young workers with safety training, prevent excessive working hours, apply the ADA, and facilitate the return to work of injured workers. Policy makers must reconsider the adequacy of current WC benefits and consider giving employers monetary incentives both to facilitate the return to work of injured workers and to educate employees about their entitlements under the WC system. Policymakers should also assess the merits of introducing incentives for precautionary savings for workers employed in dangerous industries and occupations. Finally, they should support policies to tighten early factors that lead to multiple injuries over a working life: childhood poverty, poor health and early exposure to dangerous jobs.
Injuries; Accident-rates; Accidents; Workers; Age-groups; Employees; Employee-health; Employee-exposure; Sociological-factors; Hazards; Risk-factors
Monica Galizzi, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Economics, College of Arts & Sciences, Falmouth 302F, University of Massachusetts Lowell, 1 University A venue, Lowell, MA 01854-2881
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National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
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University of Massachusetts Lowell
Page last reviewed: March 25, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division