Substance use and workplace injuries

The RAND Center for Health and Safety in the Workplace published a paper on the effect of substance use on occupational injuries. In examining the literature, the authors found these emergent themes:
  • The impact of substance use on occupational injuries varies by age and gender, which may reflect differing rates of substance use and job hazards across these groups.
  • There is also variation in substance use, occupational injuries, and the association between the two across different industries.
  • Other factors related to alcohol and substance use, such as social structures and level of risk aversion, may better explain injury than alcohol and substance use do.
  • Even where correlations between alcohol and drug use and injury are significant, only a small proportion of occupational injuries can be attributed to alcohol and drug use.
  • Few studies look at the cost to industry of off-the-job worker injuries through disability and absenteeism. This may, in fact, be a bigger concern.
The authors conclude that there is an association between substance use and occupational injury, and this association is stronger for males and in certain industries, and may also be stronger for younger workers.
The proportion of injuries caused by substance use, however, is relatively small. Instead, there is mounting evidence that harmful substance use is one of a constellation of behaviors exhibited by certain individuals who may avoid work-related safety precautions and take greater work-related risks. Thus, we suspect that it is more likely that risk-taking dispositions, often termed deviance proneness, and other omitted factors can explain most empirical associations between substance use and injuries at work.

The Effects of Substance Use on Workplace Injuries, June 5, 2009
      Report (pdf, 55pp/345kB)

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