Occupational disease surveillance using disability insurance at an automotive stamping and assembly complex

J Occup Environ Med. 1996 Nov;38(11):1111-23. doi: 10.1097/00043764-199611000-00011.


Sickness and accident-insurance (sick leave) claims at an automotive stamping and assembly complex were analyzed using Poisson regression over a 4-year period to identify occupational health problems. The incidence of lower-respiratory disability (excluding asthma) was higher in painting operations (rate ratio [RR] = 2.9, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.2 to 6.8), and final assembly and processing areas (RR = 2.7, 95% CI = 1.0 to 7.4) at the assembly plant, and in metal assembly (welding) areas (RR = 2.8, 95% CI = 1.4 to 5.7) at the stamping plant. Disability rates for upper-extremity musculoskeletal disorders were statistically significantly higher (RR = 3.1 to 3.8) in major assembly plant production areas, as were back disability rates (RR = 1.5). During the first 6 months of new work assignments in painting or final assembly, respiratory problem rates were four times higher than in other areas. Upper-extremity musculoskeletal rate ratios ranged from 4.4 to 5.7 for new assignments in body, hard trim, and chassis areas. Higher rates in new assignments appeared to result from assignment changes precipitated by developing health problems, or from routine assignments to new tasks, some of which conferred high risk and were tolerated for less than 6 months. Musculoskeletal disability was consistent with known ergonomic hazards and paralleled that reported on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration log. Work-related musculoskeletal and other problems can be readily identified from disability insurance claims without dependence on plant medical visits or workers' compensation records. Disability insurance appears to absorb considerable work-related medical and absence costs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Occupational / statistics & numerical data*
  • Adult
  • Automobiles
  • Employment
  • Female
  • Forms and Records Control
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Insurance, Disability / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity / epidemiology
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / epidemiology
  • Myocardial Ischemia / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis*
  • Occupations
  • Poisson Distribution
  • Regression Analysis
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Sick Leave / statistics & numerical data
  • Time Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration