Summary of the Article
In the article Numbers and Costs of Occupational Injury and Illness in Low-Wage Occupations, the author Leigh (2012) described the findings of a study that aimed to address the problem of what the costs of occupational injury and illness are within low-wage occupations, and which of the said occupations contribute most to those costs.
The determination of the solution to this problem would provide public health administrators -- or the government in general – with information on the costs being incurred for injuries and diseases, which in turn would enable them to efficiently allocate healthcare resources. Moreover, by determining the effects of these injuries and diseases on people with low-wage jobs, a more equitable public health care system may be promoted.
The findings of the study showed that an estimate of 596 fatal injuries and 1,625,152 nonfatal injuries occurred in 2010, which resulted in costs of $441 million and $28.3 billion, respectively. The study also showed that in the same year, there were 12,415 cases of fatal illnesses and 87,857 cases of nonfatal illnesses, which resulted in costs of $8.77 billion and $1.53 billion, respectively. As well, the study showed that the seven low-wage occupations that incurred the most medical costs from injuries and illnesses included the following: cashiers ($1.8 billion); restaurant cooks ($1.8 billion); food preparation and serving workers ($2.1 billion); stock clerks and order fillers ($2.7 billion); maids and housekeeping cleaners ($3.1 billion); janitors and cleaners ($4.1 billion); and retail salespersons ($4.5 billion). These results implied that the medical and productivity costs incurred by people in low-wage occupations are considerably more than was generally assumed. The author did not provide recommendations for future studies.
The writer’s main critique for the article is that the method used for gathering data and determining the answers to the problem statement is based mostly on assumptions. In particular, the definitions for the terms low-wage, low-wage occupations, medical costs, and productivity costs are based on rationalizations made by the researcher. Although his definitions were based on scholarly sources or standard definitions for such terms, the researcher acknowledged that there were instances when a term would have two possible definitions. In such cases, the researcher had to choose the definition that he believed would be most appropriate for the purpose of his study. However, the validity of such choices cannot be ensured as they were based mostly on the researcher’s perspectives and reasoning.
The study also made use of data from previous studies. However, unlike in a meta-analysis research where the researcher would often indicate how the data obtained from previous studies were analyzed, the researcher for the current study did not clearly indicate how data from previous studies were analyzed. All throughout the article, phrases such as “The $0.31 billion is drawn from the previous study (Leigh, 2011)” or “In the previous study, the estimate for farm workers on crop and livestock farms and domestic workers is 59,700 cases out of a total 5,126,900.” Unless the reader of the article has also read the previous study’s findings or is knowledgeable about the previous study, statements such as those mentioned would seem ambiguous or irrelevant to the reader.
Moreover, the data analyzed did not include the military personnel, the self-employed, certain farm workers, and domestic workers. Although the current study was only the first study conducted in this particular area of research, the findings or results would have been complete and more inclusive if the aforementioned occupations were also included in the analysis.
In addition, the estimates obtained may be quite inaccurate as there were many sources of discrepancies. One is the inaccuracies that resulted from underreporting. Another is that the 2010 data was obtained by merely updating the 2007 data through the use of inflation adjustments and adjustment for changes in the number of cases. This means that no actual data from 2010 was used or obtained. Moreover, there was no equivalent BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) data set for fatal disease cases, that is, there was no SOII (Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses) or CFOI (Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries) for diseases. As a result, the researcher had to resort to using other methods for obtaining the data. However, these methods were again based on assumptions.
Leigh, J. P. (2012, December). Numbers and costs of occupational injury
and illness in low-wage occupations. Retrieved from