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BLS: Days Away from Work Trends

In light of the sluggish economy, the report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showing the number of injuries requiring days away from work (DAFW) declined 9% in 2009, was not surprising. Although the overall DAFW rates declined, several industries saw their rates increase, including light or delivery service truck drivers (24%), landscapers and groundskeepers (10%), restaurant cooks (20%) and registered nurses (5%). Sprains, strains, and tears continue to dominate the type of occupational injury or illness occurring to all workers.

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Shift workers at higher risk for injury

Workers on night and rotating shifts are almost twice as likely to be injured on the job as workers on regular day shifts, indicates a new study from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

The study, published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health, examined data collected from more than 30,000 Canadians in the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics and compared workers involved in various types of shift work from 1996 to 2006. While the overall rate of work injuries in Canada decreased during those years, the rate of injuries for night shift workers did not decline.

The study found women, especially those on rotating shifts, had a higher risk of work injury. Researchers speculated this is because women are more likely to handle childcare and housework, which may make it more difficult to adjust to shift work and maintain regular sleep schedules.

As more and more workers are involved in working non-standard hours, it is important to consider policies and programs to reduce the risk of injuries.

Certain work characteristics lead to burnout, illness

Job burnout among employees working in human service settings may lead to long-term illnesses, reports a study in the October Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

The research performed at the Danish National Research Centre for the Working Environment was compiled from a large-scale study of public-sector workers in human service settings, including Social Security offices, institutions for the disabled and home care services.

Certain work characteristics contributed to employee burnout, most notably "role conflicts" – knowing things should be done a certain way but being required to do them a different way. High emotional demands, poor role clarity and low leadership also significantly contributed to sickness absence. Workers who experienced burnout had a more than three times greater risk of long-term sickness absence.

The results identify some key work characteristics affecting the risk of burnout and sickness absence in human service workers. Efforts to improve these on-the-job strains—especially role conflicts and high emotional demands—might help to reduce burnout. "At least as important, [human service] organizations should be attentive to employees with symptoms of burnout to prevent long-term sickness," lead author Dr. Borritz and colleagues conclude.