Employees who suffer permanent workplace injuries need assistance both returning to work and preventing them from getting hurt again, according to researchers at the University of Washington.
The research, which was funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, shows that workers who suffer permanent injuries have difficulty getting and keeping a job and are at higher risk of being injured again.
With almost three million non-fatal work-related injuries and illnesses in the U.S. every year, about 10% – or 300,000 – result in permanent injury and ongoing partial disability, according to a NIOSH newsletter article on the research.
While workers’ compensation benefits can help permanently injured employees financially, it may not keep them from having to return to work.
Researchers surveyed permanently injured workers in Washington State so they could better describe outcomes for workers with permanent injuries who returned to work within a year of their workers’ compensation claim closing.
Pain and chronic opioid use
The study found:
- Workers with a higher degree of injury were more likely to report poorer health status, work-related ability and problems getting or keeping a job compared to those with a lower degree of injury.
- Those with a high degree of injury, 47% of the workers surveyed, had difficulty getting a job, and 58% had trouble keeping a job.
- Sixty-six percent reported having modest to severe pain, and 40% reported having pain that gets in the way of working.
- More than half of the workers surveyed felt their permanent injury increased their chances of being injured again, and 13% reported new work injuries.
- Of the workers surveyed, 10.6% reported “taking chronic opioids, defined as 60 or more days in a row in the past year.”
To help these workers get back to work and continue work – and to reduce their risk of getting hurt again – NIOSH suggests prioritizing intervention through workplace and workers’ compensation programs.