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Women more likely than men to get injured in tech workplaces

But the overall number of such injuries is small, according to labor data

October 29, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - While injuries can occur in any workplace, when something happens at an IT-related business, women employees are more likely to get hurt, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor.

But take heart, the overall odds of being injured at work are low.

In one tech sector -- ISPs, Web search portals and data processing services -- approximately 900 injuries were reported last year from among a worker population of about 356,000, according to data released last week by the DOL. Although this tech-focused industrial category includes software engineers and information systems managers, it represents only a fraction of IT workers in the U.S.

Across all industries, including farming, logging, fishing and oil drilling, there were approximately 4 million occupational injuries and illnesses in the workplace in 2007, a slight decline from the prior year, when 4.1 million injuries and illnesses were reported.

The exact causes of the injuries last year won't be released until later next month, but data from prior years provides some indicators about what to expect when those details emerge.

In 2006, the overall number of injuries at IT-related employers stood at 840, with 480 injuries, or 57% of the total, suffered by women. In 2005, out of 1,120 injuries, 740, or 66% of the total, were suffered by women, 380 by men. In 2004, women accounted for 60% of the injuries and illnesses out of a total of 760.

Most of those injured worked in management, office and administrative support jobs, and tended to be more than 35 years of age, with many of the injuries involving sprains, strains and bruises involving the floor and other ground surfaces.

Kristin VanSoest, director of operations and a consultant at Safety Resources Inc. in Zionsville, Ind., said footwear can be a major cause of injury at the office, especially heels. Indeed, women are less likely to injure themselves in a shopping mall than at an office, said VanSoest. "If I'm setting out to go shopping, I'm not going to put on my most uncomfortable dress shoes."

In 2006, a fall was blamed for 260 of the 840 injuries, or 30%, for both men and women. The DOL didn't provide a breakdown by sex. In 2005, falls were blamed for 360 out of the 1,120 injuries, or 32%. Sprains and strains were another big category.

These injuries can lead to significant lost work time; of the total reported in 2006, 40% of the injuries accounted for a month or more of missed work.

The data that goes into these labor statistics is gathered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Employers are required to keep what's referred to as an OSHA 300 log to report injuries; the logs can help federal officials identify patterns in specific companies and industries, according to Steve McCown, a labor attorney at Littler Mendelson P.C., an employment and labor law firm.

The threshold for recording an injury is something that may involve a workers' compensation issue, treatment by a doctor -- anything more than a Band-Aid, said McCown.

Read more about IT Careers in Computerworld's IT Careers Topic Center.



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