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Open Access Research article

An ecological study of regional variation in work injuries among young workers

F Curtis Breslin12*, Peter Smith13 and James R Dunn245

Author Affiliations

1 Institute for Work & Health, 481 University Ave., Suite 800, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

2 Dept of Public Health, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada

3 Institute of Medical Science, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada

4 Research on Inner City Health, St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

5 Dept of Geography, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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BMC Public Health 2007, 7:91  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-91

Published: 23 May 2007



The investigation of geographic variation in occupational injuries has received little attention. Young workers 15 to 24 years are of particular concern because they consistently show elevated occupational injury rates compared to older workers. The present study sought to: (a) to describe the geographic variation of work injuries; (b) to determine whether geographic variation remained after controlling for relevant demographic and job characteristics; (c) to identify the region-level factors that correlate with the geographic variation.


Using workers compensation claims and census data, we estimated claim rates per 100 full-time equivalents for 15 to 24 year olds in 46 regions in Ontario. A total of 21 region-level indicators were derived primarily from Census and Labour Force Survey data to reflect social and material deprivation of the region as well as demographic and employment characteristics of youth living in those areas.


Descriptive findings showed substantial geographic variation in young worker injury rates, even after controlling for several job and demographic variables. Region-level characteristics such as greater residential stability were associated with low work injury rates. Also, regions with the lowest claim rates tended to have proportionally fewer cuts and burns than high-claim-rate regions.


The finding of substantial geographic variation in youth claim rates even after controlling for demographic and job factors can aid in targeting prevention resource. The association between region-level indicators such as residential stability and youth work injury suggests that work injury prevention strategies can be integrated with other local economic development measures. The findings partially support the notion that work safety measures may be unevenly distributed with respect to regional socio-economic factors.