Baltimore, MD (WorkersCompensation.com) – A new study by researchers with Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore suggests that employment time before the first lost-time injury occurs could be a predictor of future injuries on the job — regardless of underlying risk factors. Workers who sustained occupational injuries within the first six months of their employment were 2.12 times more likely to have at least three injuries during their entire employment at an organization compared to other workers.
“We understand that the association regarding time between initial employment and the occurrence of first injury is just a surrogate or proxy of many underlying risk factors, including work experience, personal behaviors, nature of job, work environment, and so on,” the researchers wrote in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. “However, the length of time between employment and first injury may be used as a simple and easily identifiable tool to alert managers and safety professionals regarding possible increased risk of hazardous work areas and/or personal factors that are associated with multiple injuries.”
The study, “Do Work-Related Lost-Time Injuries Sustained Early in Employment Predict Multiple Lost-Time Injuries Throughout Employment” was based on data from 5,906 injuries sustained between 1994 and 2017 among workers at The Johns Hopkins Health System and University. The odds of a worker having multiple occupational injuries during his career at the company decreased by 13 percent for every year prior to the first injury.
Armed with the information, companies can proactively seek to reduce future injuries.
“If a particular work area has numerous individuals at a particular work area experience multiple injuries, then there may be an increased risk related to environmental conditions, rather than personal factors, as the predominant factor in the genesis of these injuries,” the writers said. “Conversely, if a small number of employees working at diverse jobs have multiple injury claims, then personal or medical factors may warrant further consideration.”
The authors noted that the employees they studied tend to stay at the organization for longer periods of time than workers at other types of organizations. They also said the findings may be unique to the academic and/or healthcare industries.
“In summary, the timing of the first lost-time injury may be used as a surrogate to rapidly identify workers at risk of having multiple work injury claims without detailed information of underlying risk factors,” they wrote. “Although this study has limitations … this paper provides evidence that it is possible to identify employees at high risk of multiple injuries by looking at a simple proxy.”
The study was written by Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine research director Grant Tao, M.D., M.S., Ph.D., Nimisha Kalia, M.B.A., M.D., M.P.H., and Lavin A. Robert MD, MS with the University of Maryland; Sebastian A. Minor, MBA, Larry Yuspeh, BA; and Nina Leung, Ph.D., MPH, Nicholas Tsourmas, M.D. , Edward J. Bernacki, M.D., MPH all of Dell Medical School, Texas.
The findings were similar to those in a 2013 study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information that reviewed worker data from 1998 to 2003.