A new study released last week at PREMUS — the Sixth International Scientific Conference on Prevention of Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders, held in Boston, highlights the differences in injury rates by gender, race/ethnicity or both.

The results of the study provide insights into why certain workers get injured at different rates. PREMUS is an academic conference that gathers researchers from around the world with the goal of preventing work-related musculoskeletal disorders.

Said to be the first-ever study on the differences in injury rates by race, ethnicity and gender of hotel workers in the United States, the study utilized hotel employer records of work-related injuries and employee hiring list data. This is the largest study of hotel workers' injuries ever performed in the United States aside from data that the Department of Labor collects annually, according to a press release.

A sample of 35 union hotels in the "full-service" sector was selected for further study of disparities in injury rates by gender and race/ethnicity. This sample includes 16,000 workers employed annually with over 700 injuries occurring each year during the 2003-2005 time period.

Key findings of the study include:

• The job titles included in this new injury study — room attendants, stewards/dishwashers, banquet servers and cooks/kitchen workers — represent 49 percent of the hotel workforce; therefore, these study findings require serious attention given the large number of workers affected in the hotel industry.

• Disparities by gender: injury rates of 5.5 percent for females compared to 3.7 percent for males.

• Disparities by race/ethnicity: injury rates of 4.9 percent for nonwhites compared to 3.0 percent for whites, with even higher rates by demographic subgroups.

• The combination of increased risk by gender with the increased risk by race/ethnicity suggests an even greater increased risk for women of color:

- female Hispanic stewards/dishwashers: 10.0 percent
- female Hispanic room attendants: 9.5 percent
- female Asian cooks: 8.9 percent
- female Hispanic banquet servers: 3.9 percent
- female black hotel workers: 3.8 percent

"This study is a first step towards identifying who, today is doing hotel work in the United States and who is getting injured on the job. The higher injury rates for women across all jobs and for Hispanics in specific jobs is alarming. More research is needed to get at the root of these injuries and difference in rates of injury," said Dr. Lida Orta-Anes, ergonomics expert and professor at the Graduate School of Public Health, University of Puerto Rico.