Objective By linking data on union work hours with workers’ compensation records, rates of reported work-related injuries resulting from FFH and associated days away from work were evaluated among a large cohort (n = 24,830) of union carpenters in Washington State from 1989 to 2008.
Methods Using Poisson regression we assessed rates of FFH over the 20-year period while adjusting for temporal trend in work-related injuries that did not involve a FFH. Patterns of paid lost days were assessed with negative binomial regression.
Results Crude rates of FFH decreased 82% over the 20-year period in a fairly steady pattern. Reductions were more modest and without demonstrable change since 1996 when considering the temporal reduction in non-FFH injuries. Younger workers had higher injury rates while older workers lost more days following falls. Rates of paid lost days associated with FFH decreased over time, but there was not a consistent decline in mean lost days per fall.
Conclusions Falls from height (FFH) continue to cause significant morbidity and mortality across the construction industry. The observed patterns are consistent with decreased FFH for several years surrounding the Washington Vertical Fall Arrest Standard (1991); the decline exceeds those seen in injury rates overall in this large construction cohort. While crude rates of FFH have continued to decline, they are not as substantial as the declines seen for other types of injuries. The patterns could reflect a variety of things including more global efforts designed to control risk (site planning, safety accountability) and changes in reporting practices.
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