Work injuries among young workers: How much do different methods of calculating denominators matter?


Breslin FC, Pole JD, Koehoorn M


Determining the risk of workplace injury among young workers depends on what information is used to calculate injury rates. The methods currently used by workers’ compensation boards (WCBs) do not account for the fact that young workers – those aged 15 to 24 – are more likely than adults to work part time (i.e. fewer than 30 hours per week). This may help explain the mixed findings in Canadian reports on the relative risk of work injury among these young employees.

This paper aimed to answer two basic questions. First, what is the risk for self-reported workplace injury among young adults and adolescents compared to adult workers? Also, how might various methods of collecting data affect these risk calculations?

Researchers used information from the 1993 General Social Survey, a self-report survey that included questions about workplace injuries and hours worked in the previous year. They then tested different methods of calculating workplace injury rates with special focus on the age of the workers.

The rate of self-reported work injury among young workers was found to be double that of adult workers when the calculations were based on a newer method that factored in the “part-time” nature of young workers. The researchers also found that the injury rate among 15- to 19-year-olds was 47 per cent lower when it was calculated using typical WCB methods rather than the newer method.

Based on their findings, the researchers say data collection methods that ignore part-time job status are likely to underestimate the risk of injury, especially for adolescent workers.