Safety and OSHA News

What factors contribute to workplace back reinjury?

Back injuries are the most expensive and most prevalent workplace injuries in the U.S. But up until now, no one has looked at what factors might contribute to back reinjury for employees who return to work.

New research published in the journal Spine outlines multiple risk factors for reinjury after returning to work:

  • male gender
  • constant whole-body vibration at work
  • previous similar injury
  • 4 or more previous claims of any type
  • possessing health insurance, and
  • high fear-avoidance scores.

One factor was associated with reduced odds of reinjury: Surprisingly, that’s obesity.

The researchers at Dartmouth College found 25.8% of 1,123 workers followed over a one-year period suffered reinjury.

The authors noted there have been few studies of risk factors for occupational back reinjuries.

“Increased knowledge of early risk factors for reinjury may help to lead to interventions and graded activity to promote recovery, effective in lowering the risk of reinjury,” the authors wrote.

For supervisors: Now you know which workers might be more likely to reinjure their backs at work. Extra education about back health and safety might decrease the chances they’ll become part of the one-in-four who are reinjured.

A publication on back injury prevention is available on OSHA’s website (PDF).

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