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Construction Depot

Safety and health newsletter for the Oregon construction industry

December 15, 2015

family tree

Workplace injuries can harm family members, too

We all know that the workplace injuries affect workers and their employers, but the consequences of those injuries can put a worker’s family members at risk for injury, too.

In a recent study (first published online, Aug. 31, 2015), researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and Northern Kentucky University found that family members of severely injured workers filed more healthcare claims for musculoskeletal disorders such as fractures, sprains, and joint dislocations than family members of less severely injured workers.

The researchers analyzed workers' compensation claims records from 2005 to 2006 and found that in the three months after a workplace injury, claims for musculoskeletal disorders among family members of severely injured workers exceeded those for family members of non-severely injured workers by 34 percent.

The increase persisted even after the researchers took into account other factors, such as pre-existing musculoskeletal disorders. The researchers estimated that the excess outpatient costs for family members of severely injured workers amounted to $29 million to $33 million per year during the study period. It is possible that the costs could have been higher because claims submitted more than three months after an injury were not included in the study.

The researchers did not say why the claims were higher for family members of severely injured workers but noted that tasks such as helping the injured worker walk, bathe, and do household chores could be contributing factors. The researchers are also investigating financial and emotional impacts that a severe workplace injury has on families, such as a loss of income.

The report, published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, is available through the Wiley Online Library.



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