Evaluating Oregon young worker injury and illness worker compensation data

This blog has been submitted by our partner and colleague, Curtis Cude, Occupational Public Health Principal Investigator, Program Manager, Oregon Healthy Authority, Public Health Division, Environmental Public Health.

Young workers are especially vulnerable to occupational injuries and illnesses. We need to continually study the burden of injury to young workers across demographics, job type and industry to improve injury prevention efforts. Workers compensation claims can provide important information on work-related injuries and illnesses. Young workers are generally defined as those workers between the ages of 15 and 24 years.

In this new study, researchers at Oregon State University’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences and Oregon Health Authority’s Occupational Public Health Program used all accepted disabling claims (N = 13,360) and a significant portion of non-disabling claims (N = 24,660) on Oregon workers aged 24 years and under from 2013 to 2018. After calculating the claim count, rate and cost by year, age, gender, industry and injury type, the researchers ranked industries using a prevention index method.

Average annual disabling and non-disabling claim rates were 111.6 and 401.3 per 10,000 young workers. Workers aged 19–21 (disabling: 119.0 and non-disabling: 429.3 per 10,000) and 22–24 years (115.7 and 396.4) and male workers (145.3 and 509.0) had higher claim rates than workers aged 14–18 (80.6 and 297.0) and female workers (79.8 and 282.9).

The most frequent injury types were “struck by/against” (35.6%) and “work-related musculoskeletal disorders” (19.5%). High-risk industries included agriculture, construction and manufacturing for both genders combined. For female young workers, the highest risk industry was healthcare.

While non-disabling claims were collected only for younger workers for this study, we can compare disabling claims to contrast injury rates between younger and older (> 24 years) workers as follows:

  • The age group 19–21 years had the highest injury rates in both genders.
    • Compared to female and male older workers, injury rates in females and males in this age group were 1.05 (95% CI: 1.00–1.10) and 1.16 times (95% CI: 1.12–1.20) higher.
  • The youngest age group (14–18) had the lowest injury rates.
    • These rates were 0.70 (95%CI: 0.65–0.76) and 0.81 (95%CI: 0.76–0.87) times those of female and male older workers.

This study showed the value of examining both disabling and non-disabling data and using a prevention index to address common and costly injuries among Oregon young workers. These results can guide targeted research and prevention efforts specific to Oregon young workers.

The publication was authored by: Liu Yang, MS, MPH, Ph.D.; Adam Branscum, Ph.D., Professor and Director of Biostatistics, College of Public Health and Human Sciences, Oregon State University; Viktor Bovbjerg, Ph.D., MPH, Professor of Epidemiology, Oregon State University, Curtis Cude, BS, Program Manager, Environmental Public Health section, Oregon Health Authority; Crystal Weston, MPA, Program Coordinator, Occupational Public Health and Pesticide Exposure Safety and Tracking programs, Oregon Health Authority; and Laurel Kincl, PhD, CSP, Associate Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health, Oregon State University. Dr. Yang completed this work as a graduate student at Oregon State University.

Learn more about Environmental Public Health at the Oregon Health Authority, and the College of Public Health and Human Sciences  at Oregon State University.

Other Resources
Total Worker Health Toolkit: Promoting U Through Safety & Health (PUSH)
Oregon Young Employee Safety Coalition (O[yes])
Oregon Fatality and Assessment Control Evaluation Program (OR-FACE)