Injuries in home health care workers: an analysis of occupational morbidity from a state compensation database

Am J Ind Med. 1999 Mar;35(3):295-301. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-0274(199903)35:3<295::aid-ajim10>;2-#.


Background: Home health services represent one of the fastest-growing segments of the US economy. Home health care workers (HHCWs) might be expected to have a high incidence and increased severity of injury because of inherent difficulty in control over their work environment, and the limited amount of research on injuries in home health care appears to support this hypothesis.

Methods: Using data on workers' compensation claims for 1995-1996 from a large state database, we calculated the incidence, frequency, and types of injuries occurring in this working population. Comparison data were drawn from nursing home (NH) and hospital-based nursing personnel.

Results: An incidence of 52 injuries per 1,000 workers per year was calculated; this rate lies between nursing home workers (132/1,000) and hospital-based workers (46/1,000). The percentage of indemnified (> 3 days lost-time) injuries was increased over those occurring in nursing home personnel. Mean number of days lost from work by home health workers was 44, significantly increased from the average 18 and 14 days lost by NH and hospital nursing workers, respectively. Mean indemnity payment was $1,523 and mean medical costs were $1,276 per injury. Permanent partial disability awards were made to 19 (4.9%) of the injured HHCWs during the 2-year study period; back injuries accounted for 63% (12) of these awards. Overexertion injuries and falls accounted for 63% of total injuries in this group of workers, while 13.5% occurred as a result of motor vehicle accidents. The incidence of injury attributed to motor vehicles in HHCWs was 7 per 1,000 workers per year, an order of magnitude greater than in NH and hospital workers.

Conclusions: These data indicate that injuries to HHCWs, though less frequent than in their nursing home counterparts, result in greater lost time from work and accompanying costs, which may indicate greater severity of injury. Characteristics of home health work, including increased intensity and speed of work, adverse working conditions, and the necessity of motor vehicle transportation as a condition of work may be contributors to injury in this setting. Further investigation of determinants of accidents and injuries in home health care, both in the actual setting where the work takes place and in the way it is structured, is warranted.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Occupational / economics
  • Accidents, Occupational / statistics & numerical data*
  • Adult
  • Back Injuries / epidemiology
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Cost of Illness
  • Databases, Factual / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs / statistics & numerical data
  • Home Care Services / economics
  • Home Care Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Home Health Aides / economics
  • Home Health Aides / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Insurance Benefits / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Normal Distribution
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sick Leave / statistics & numerical data
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • West Virginia / epidemiology
  • Workers' Compensation / statistics & numerical data
  • Wounds and Injuries / economics
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology*