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December 24, 1997

Occupational Injuries Among Workers With DisabilitiesThe National Health Interview Survey, 1985-1994

Author Affiliations

From the Injury Prevention Research Center (Drs Zwerling and Sprince and Mr Whitten) and the Department of Preventive Medicine and Environmental Health (Dr Davis), University of Iowa, Iowa City.

JAMA. 1997;278(24):2163-2166. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550240053033

Context.  —As the baby boom generation ages, more people will be working with disabilities, but we have little information regarding how disabilities affect risk for occupational injury.

Objective.  —To test the hypothesis that work-limiting disabilities in general and hearing and visual impairments in particular are risk factors for occupational injuries.

Design-.  —Retrospective cohort study.

Setting.  —The National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), 1985 to 1994.

Participants.  —The 459 827 participants in the NHIS from 1985 to 1994 who listed "working" as their primary activity, who were not farmers, and who were between 18 and 65 years of age.

Main Outcome Measure.  —Occupational injuries in the year preceding the interview causing a residual impairment at the time of interview.

Results.  —After adjusting for occupation, self-employment, and age, occupational injury was associated with preceding work disability (odds ratio [OR], 1.36; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.19-1.56); blindness (OR, 3.21; 95% CI, 1.32-7.85); deafness (OR, 2.19; 95% CI, 1.17-4.12); hearing impairment (OR,1.55; 95% CI, 1.29-1.87); upper extremity impairment (OR, 1.46; 95% CI, 1.05-2.05); and arthritis (OR, 1.34; 95% CI, 1.07-1.68). Visual impairment was not associated with a significantly increased risk (OR, 1.37; 95% CI, 0.87-2.17).

Conclusions.  —Workers with disabilities, especially sensory impairments, appear to have an elevated risk for occupational injury. Further research in the design and evaluation of improved workplace accommodations for workers with these disabilities is needed.