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Does lack of sick leave lead to more workplace injuries?

Research suggests that workplace safety would be improved if paid sick leave were more available to employees. The study was done by the federal Centers for Disease Control. It involved 38,000 workers and covered the years 2005 to 2008.

The findings have implications for our Maryland workplace injuries, as well as those in other states.

According to the research, the overall injury rate per 100 workers among those who had access to paid sick leave was 2.59. The rate for workers without such access was significantly higher, at 4.18.

To be sure, the probability of injury varies widely by industry, occupation and company policy. The researchers concluded, however, that even after acknowledging these variables, the chances of a nonfatal injury are substantially lower - 28 percent lower, to be precise - among workers who have paid sick leave.

The lead author of the study, Abay Asfaw of the CDC, commented that making paid sick leave available to employees may benefit employers as well as workers. "We can infer," he said, "that lower injury rates mean lower levels of workers' compensation payments."

Here in Maryland, the issue of paid sick leave is a timely one. Today the Baltimore Sun ran an article arguing that paid sick leave is a good investment for employers. The piece mentioned improved workplace safety as one of the benefits of greater access to paid sick leave.

Other benefits of paid sick leave include better employee health, better work/family balance, and even improved economic growth. San Francisco has had a city ordinance for the past five years. The ordinance has definitely not been a job killer, as the city has continued to add jobs even in low-wage sectors such as restaurants and retail.

Yet about 40 percent of private sector workers do not have access to paid sick leave. In Maryland alone, over 700,000 workers lack this access.

Source: "Paid Sick Leave May Reduce Work Injuries," The New York Times, 8-6-12

Additional Source: "Paid sick leave a wise investment," The Baltimore Sun, Barbara Morgan and Ross Eisenbrey, 11-28-12

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