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Back injuries among sawmill workers Chhokar, Rahul


Despite the high rates of injury in British Columbia’s sawmill industry no studies have specifically investigated back injury, which is one of the leading causes of work-related disability. To fill this gap, a study was devised and carried out to describe the rates and identify the risk factors associated with back injury in sawmill workers. Rates of backrelated compensation claims and hospitalizations were calculated for workers employed for at least one year between January 1, 1987 and July 31, 1997. Person time at risk was determined from work history records that were available for each worker. During the study period, there were 566 compensation claims and 154 hospitalizations for back injury, representing rates of 1.35 and 0.35 per 100 person years. Rates of both compensation claims and hospitalizations varied during the study period, which may be attributed to changes in the labour market and physician practices. In addition, rates of compensation claims decreased with longer duration of employment. A nested case-control design was used to identify physical and psychosocial risk factors associated with back-related compensation claims and hospitalizations. Results revealed that workers that had more physically demanding jobs had a higher risk of injury compared to workers that had less physically demanding jobs. As well, workers with one or more physical risk factors in their job were at a higher risk of back-related compensation claims than workers with no physical risk factors in their job. Of the psychosocial risk factors studied, job control was found to be associated with both backrelated compensation claims and hospitalizations: workers with more job control had a lower risk of injury. Noise exposure was found to increase the risk of back-related compensation claims; although the risk was lower in the highest level of noise exposure, suggesting that workers in this category used hearing protection more frequently. This study was the first to examine the rates and risk factors associated with back-related compensation claims and hospitalizations among sawmill workers. In addition to providing this information, this study also addressed some of the methodological limitations in prior occupational back injury studies.

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