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Paid Sick Leave Can Reduce Workplace Injuries, Study Finds

A new study has found that workers who are provided with paid sick leave are less likely to suffer workplace injuries than those without access to such leave.

Researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that private sector workers with access to paid sick leave were 28% less likely to suffer non-fatal industrial injuries.

Interestingly, workers in some fields of employment deemed among the riskiest were the most likely to benefit from paid sick leave. They include construction, manufacturing, agriculture and health care, according to the study, published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Workers in these sectors commonly experience muscle soreness, pain, sprains, strains and tears; fractures; cuts and lacerations; or more chronic injuries including herniated discs, cartilage damage and spinal cord injuries, the study said.

The study found health care practitioners and technicians without access to paid sick leave were 18% more likely to suffer a non-fatal work-related injury than workers in the same jobs who have access to paid sick leave.

A construction worker without access to paid sick leave was 21% more likely to suffer a non-fatal work-related injury than a construction worker with access to paid sick leave.

Researchers’ conclusions

The institute’s researchers concluded that access to paid sick leave might reduce the pressure to work while sick out of fear of losing income. Fewer people working while sick, and therefore performing at reduced functional capacity, might lead to safer operations and fewer injuries.

“The potential safety benefit observed in our study extends previous research demonstrating that paid sick leave is associated with shorter worker recovery times and reduced complications from minor health problems,” the researchers wrote. “Paid sick leave also enables workers to care for loved ones and can help prevent the spread of contagious diseases.”

The researchers also noted that companies may enjoy better productivity if absenteeism is reduced thanks to offering paid sick leave or what they termed “presenteeism”– the problem of sick workers continuing coming to work despite being ill, which can affect their work performance.

Paid sick leave is considered a non-wage benefit that US employers are not required to offer their workers.

The research also suggests that family members’ hospitalization, a severe stressor, increased the probability that a worker would suffer a severe occupational injury by 9%.

Although the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act requires public agencies and private sector establishments to provide up to 12 weeks of leave to eligible workers, this leave can be paid or unpaid.

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