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Twenty years of work-related injury and illness among union carpenters in Washington State

Authors

  • Amanda J. McCoy MD, MPH,

    1. Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, North Carolina
    2. Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
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  • Kristen L. Kucera PhD,

    1. Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina
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  • Ashley L. Schoenfisch MSPH,

    1. Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
    2. Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina
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  • Barbara A. Silverstein MSN, PhD, MPH, CPE,

    1. Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP) Program, Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, Olympia, Washington
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  • Hester J. Lipscomb PhD

    Corresponding author
    1. Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina
    • Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, PO Box 3834, Durham, NC 27710.
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  • Disclosure Statement: The authors report no conflicts of interests.

Abstract

Background

Individuals who work in the construction industry are at high risk of occupational injury. Robust surveillance systems are needed to monitor the experiences of these workers over time.

Methods

We updated important surveillance data for a unique occupational cohort of union construction workers to provide information on long-term trends in their reported work-related injuries and conditions. Combining administrative data sources, we identified a dynamic cohort of union carpenters who worked in Washington State from 1989 through 2008, their hours worked by month, and their workers' compensation claims. Incidence rates of reported work-related injuries and illnesses were examined. Poisson regression was used to assess risk by categories of age, gender, time in the union, and calendar time contrasting medical only and paid lost time claims.

Results

Over the 20-year study period, 24,830 carpenters worked 192.4 million work hours. Work-related injuries resulting in medical care or paid lost time (PLT) from work occurred at a rate of 24.3 per 200,000 hr worked (95% CI: 23.5–25.0). Medical only claims declined 62% and PLT claims declined 77%; more substantive declines were seen for injuries resulting from being struck and falls to a lower level than from overexertion with lifting. Differences in risk based on union tenure and age diminished over time as well.

Conclusions

Significant declines in rates of reported work-related injuries and illnesses were observed over the 20-year period among these union carpenters. Greater declines were observed among workers with less union tenure and for claims resulting in PLT. Am. J. Ind. Med. 56:381–388, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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