Back Pain-related Absenteeism: Differences Between Small and Large Companies

Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health
  • Butterfield, Patricia G.;
  • Spencer, Peter S.;
  • Yates, Shawna


Although there is well-documented evidence of an association between company size and injury incidence, evidence addressing relationships between company size and the duration of occupational disability is not as well established. To gain a better understanding of differences in temporary disability (i.e., timeloss days) between workers employed in small (100 or fewer workers) versus larger companies (>100 workers), data from 340 workers with low back pain were examined using bivariate and multivariate analyses. Overall, 41% of workers accrued at least one timeloss day during the course of their claim, with no differences between the percentage of workers with at least one timeloss day employed in small versus larger companies. However, the duration of timeloss was significantly greater for workers in small versus larger companies. Workers employed in small companies were more likely to have very long claims. In addition, separate multiple linear regression models were built to explain absenteeism duration in small and larger companies. Both physical (e.g., more severe injury, discontinuing exercise post injury) and psychological (e.g., lower social support, ambiguity in job tasks) were found to be significant predictors of absenteeism duration. Possible reasons for the longer duration of work-related absenteeism in small versus larger companies include limited opportunities for modified work tasks in small companies, more proactive management of absenteeism and return to work issues in larger companies, and less recognition of the importance of early return to work programs in smaller companies. Because of the large numbers of North American workers employed in small companies, there is a need for a more comprehensive understanding of disability trends and return to work impediments among this subgroup of workers.

Full article can be found in: Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health
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