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March 2013

Restricted work due to workplace injuries: a historical perspective

John W. Ruser, William J. Wiatrowski

In anticipation of upcoming data on worker characteristics and on case circumstances surrounding workplace injuries that result in job transfer or restricted work, new tabulations look at trends in the outcome of workplace injuries over the past several decades The proportion of all nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in the United States that resulted in job transfer (the injured worker continues to be at work but performs a different set of duties) or restricted work (the injured worker performs less strenuous duties) has grown steadily over the past several decades, especially during the 1990s. Today, close to 60 percent of the most severe cases in private industry include at least some days of job transfer or restricted work, with the remainder resulting exclusively in days away from work. In contrast, when such data were first reported in the early 1970s, soon after the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, cases involving only job transfer accounted for less than 5 percent of all severe cases. This article uses available data to investigate the growth of cases resulting in job transfer or restricted work (or, simply, restricted-work cases). The discussion sets the stage for the expansion of data to include detailed information on the circumstances and worker characteristics of restricted-work cases. Such information is scheduled to be released for the first time in 2013.

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