Serious injuries represent a minority of work-related injuries, yet represent the majority of disability days paid and lead to high workers’ compensation claim costs. This study examined the rates and distribution of these injuries by demographic, work, and injury characteristics in British Columbia, Canada in 2008.
Workers with a serious injury claim were identified from workers’ compensation data. Serious injuries were defined by long duration, high cost, serious medical diagnosis, or fatality. Workforce estimates were used to calculate serious injury rates for each year by age, sex, occupation, and industry.
Men had a higher serious injury rate than women (10 versus 6 per 1000 workers). Rates for older women were 2 to 3 times higher than younger women (7 versus 3 per 1000 workers), while there was less variation by age for men. Rates of strains and sprains were highest among older workers and similar for men and women (5 per 1000 workers). Conversely the rate of fractures (1.9 per 1000 workers) was similar across all age groups for men, but highest among oldest age groups for women (1.7 versus 0.3 per 1000 workers). There was also a four-fold increase in risk of serious injury due to falls for older versus younger women (3 versus 0.7 per 1000 workers). Occupations with the highest injury rates had similar risks for men and women, except for health care where women had the highest risk (17 versus 5 per 1000).
Evidence for the burden of serious injuries, provides a basis for the implementation of intervention programs within high-risk occupations and groups. Given projected demographic shifts and increasing workforce participation of older workers, stakeholders and public health officials should carefully implement these programs with consideration to older women at-risk for certain types of serious injuries in the workplace.