June 2018: PWHS post-doctoral fellow Robert Macpherson and co-director Chris McLeod, with Australian colleagues Tyler Lane and Alex Collie, are authors of a new paper in BMC Public Health identifying age and sex trends in the disability burden of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in Canada and Australia. Along with finding that the burden of work-related MSDs is shifting toward older workers, particularly older females in Australia and older males in Canada, this paper demonstrates that workers’ compensation data can be compared internationally.
The objectives of this study were (1) to identify age and sex trends in the disability burden of compensated work-related MSDs in Canada and Australia; and (2) to demonstrate a means of comparing workers’compensation data internationally.
All non-fatal, work-related MSD claims with at least one day of compensated time-loss were extracted for workers aged 15–80 during a 10-year period (2004–2013) using workers’compensation data from five Canadian and eight Australian jurisdictions. Disability burden was calculated for both countries by sex, age group, and injury classification, using cumulative compensated time-loss payments of up to two years post-injury.
A total of 1.2 million MSD claims were compensated for time-loss in the Canadian and Australian jurisdictions during 2004–2013. This resulted in time-loss equivalent to 239,345 years in the Canadian jurisdictions and 321,488 years in the Australian jurisdictions. The number of time-loss years declined overall among male and female workers, but greater declines were observed for males and younger workers. The proportion of the disability burden grew among older workers (aged 55+), particularly males in the Canadian jurisdictions (Annual Percent Change [APC]: 7.2, 95% CI 6.7 to 7.7%) and females in the Australian jurisdictions (APC: 7.5, 95% CI 6.2 to 8.9%).
The compensated disability burden of work-related MSDs is shifting towards older workers and particularly older females in Australia and older males in Canada. Employers and workers’compensation boards should consider the specific needs of older workers to reduce injuries and time off work. Comparative research made possible through research-stakeholder partnerships offers a unique opportunity to use existing administrative data to identify long-term trends in disability burden. Future research can apply similar approaches for estimating long-term trends in occupational health.