The rate of nonfatal injury from work-related assaults has increased among law enforcement officers, according to a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The study is the first national investigation of nonfatal injuries from assaults and other unintentional injuries, including accidental falls and motor vehicle crashes.

Law enforcement is recognized as a particularly dangerous occupation. Until now, however, little information was available on trends in nonfatal work-related injuries among law enforcement officers. Accordingly, this study aimed to provide information about the causes and extent of these injuries.

3X as many injuries

Compared to other workers, law enforcement officers were injured on the job three times as often, the study found. From 2003 to 2014, approximately 669,100 law enforcement officers were treated in emergency departments nationwide for nonfatal injuries.  The leading cause of work-related injury in this group of workers was assault and other violent acts, which accounted for more than one third (35%) of injuries treated in emergency departments. Furthermore, from 2003 to 2011, assault-related injuries increased by almost 10%, although the rates for other injuries remained stable.

Age but not gender differences

After assault and other violent acts, the second leading cause of injury was bodily reactions and exertion from running or other repetitive motions, which caused 15% of injuries, followed by transportation incidents at 14%. Younger officers aged 21-24 were more likely to be injured than older officers. The rates of nonfatal injury were similar among men and women. According to the investigators, the study’s findings underscore the importance of additional research aimed at understanding the causes and prevention of assault and other work-related injuries among law enforcement officers.

The investigators obtained information from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System –Occupational Supplement (NEISS-Work) on nonfatal injuries treated in U.S. emergency departments from 2003–2014. They then calculated rates of nonfatal injury using numbers from the Current Population Survey. NEISS-Work is a collaboration between the Consumer Product Safety Commission and NIOSH that collects information on work-related injuries and illnesses treated in emergency departments.

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Source: NIOSH