What are the main causes of hospitalization in sawmill workers?

In brief

  • The main causes of injury among sawmills workers who were hospitalized were related to machinery and falls.
  • To aid prevention efforts, further studies should thoroughly describe the exact circumstances of injuries. They should also collect information on the workers' work history, including tasks they perform and experience at different jobs.
  • The standardized reporting and coding of injuries should be performed consistently across hospitals.
  • Work characteristics should be investigated in relation to injury characteristics to help better assess safety hazards in sawmlls.

Published: January 2007

Why was this study done?

Sawmills are a major source of employment in British Columbia (B.C.). About two per cent of the B.C. workforce held jobs in the sawmill industry from 1993 to 1998. Sawmills are hazardous work environments because of the nature of the work and the types of machines that are used. This study described the injuries resulting in hospitalization among workers in the B.C. lumber industry.

How was the study done?

In the 1980s, a large study of sawmill workers in B.C. was conducted to look at their cancer risks. It was later expanded to study other occupational health issues in this workforce. Workers from this study were linked to records of their use of health-care services using the B.C. Linked Health Database (BCLHD). In total, 5,745 male sawmill workers were used for this analysis. This group was followed from April 1989 to December 1997 to identify potential work-related hospital admissions.

What did the researchers find?

Over the study period, there were 164 work-related hospitalizations. The higher injury rates were for dislocations, sprains and strains, open wounds and fracture of upper limbs. The main causes of injury among workers were related to machinery and falls. The job groups that were at high risk of serious injuries were skilled trades, machine operators, attendants, clearers and sorters, and material handlers. There was a decline in injury rates from 1994 onward. This could be explained by an increased awareness of hazards, more prevention efforts and more automation of work processes.

What are some strengths and weaknesses of the study?

One strength is that this study had information on a large number of sawmill workers over time. One potential limitation is that the classification and coding of injury information may not have been performed consistently across all hospitals.