Disclosures: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.
May 05, 2021
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Severity, cost of construction-related musculoskeletal disorder claims peak at middle age

Disclosures: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.
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The severity and cost of work-related musculoskeletal disorders among Ohio construction workers from 2007 to 2017 increased with age, peaking in those aged 55 to 64 years, according to data published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

“As the U.S. workforce grows older, it’s critical to understand age-specific health and safety needs of workers in hazardous and physically demanding industries such as construction,” Harpriya Kaur, PhD, of the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), told Healio Rheumatology. “NIOSH hopes that more awareness of the kinds of work-related musculoskeletal disorders that are more common and severe for certain age groups and occupations could lead to better implementation of existing ergonomic prevention measures and workplace accommodations to promote post-injury recovery.”

The severity of work-related musculoskeletal disorders among Ohio construction workers from 2007 to 2017 increased with age, peaking in those aged 55-64 years, according to data derived from Kaur H, et al. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2021;doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm7016a1.

To analyze the rate and cost of work-related musculoskeletal disorders claims resulting from overexertion, Kaur and colleagues studied workers’ compensation claims submitted by construction employees to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (OHBWC) from 2007 to 2017. The researchers chose Ohio as it is the most populous state with an exclusive state-run workers’ compensation system.

The researchers analyzed lost-time claims — defined as those with at least 8 days of lost work — and medical-only claims — defined as medical treatment expenses paid and 7 or fewer lost workdays. Claim data included employer information, worker age and gender, claim cost, lost workdays, diagnosis billing codes and a description of how the injury or illness happened. Cumulative claim rates were calculated by dividing the sum of the yearly claim counts by the sum of the yearly estimated full-time employees (FTEs) for 2007 to 2017.

According to the researchers, the OHBWC accepted 10,347 claims from construction workers for work-related musculoskeletal disorders resulting from overextension. Workers aged 35 to 44 years demonstrated the highest claim rate, at 63 per 10,000 FTEs for work-related musculoskeletal disorders. However, claims by workers aged 45 to 54 years and 55 to 64 years were more costly on average and resulted in more days away from work.

The claim rate for spinal disc disorders was highest among those aged 35 to 44 years, at 4.7 per 10,000 FTE, and 45-54 years, at 4.5 per 10,000 FTE, as was the rate of upper extremity sprains — 18.5 in those aged 35 to 44 years and 18.6 among those aged 45 to 54 years. The rate of back sprain claims was highest among those aged 25 to 34 years, at 26.5, and 35 to 44 years, at 24.6.

Meanwhile, the severity of work-related musculoskeletal disorders — based on the percentage of claims classified as at least 8 days of lost work — increased with age, peaking among those aged 55 to 64 years. The percentage of lost-time claims with 100 workdays or more lost was highest among those aged 45 to 54 years, and lowest in the 18- to 24-year age group. The cost per claim was highest among those aged 45 to 54 years, at $25,932, and 54 to 64 years, at $25,572. Cost per FTE was highest among workers aged 45 to 54 years, at $154.56.

“This study found that among Ohio construction workers during 2007 to 2017, workers aged 35 to 44 years had the highest rates of worker’s compensation claims for work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) due to overexertion,” Kaur said. “This study showed that among workers aged 45-64 years, claims were more costly and resulted in more days away from work for workers. The study also found that relative frequencies of WMSD types also changes with age.”

“For example, we found the claim rate of disc disorders and upper extremity sprains was higher among those aged 35 to 44-years and 45 to 54 years old, while the rate of back sprains was higher among those aged 25 to 34 years and 35 to 44 years,” she added. “A key caveat is that the rate and severity of WMSDs among older workers is undoubtedly lowered somewhat due to injured workers leaving the construction industry, and we don’t how much this has affected the results. More research is needed in this area.”