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The social and economic impact of lower back problems among railroad maintenance-of-way employees

Author: 
Ruth Ruttenberg, Ph.D.
Subject Area: 
Social Sciences and Humanities
Abstract: 

Thousands of railroad maintenance-of-way (MOW) workers develop lower back problems from their work. This study calculates the social and economic burdens of these problems, borne by thousands of MOW workers. Economic calculations are derived from the literature and also from a survey of 4,800 MOW respondents, 155 in-depth interviews, and two focus groups. This one health problem alone costs at least $717 million to $1.103 billion over the course of lower back cases currently diagnosed among MOW workers. Many individuals work through significant pain or have to leave their profession. Some are crippled for life. When a worker has lower back problems, beyond pain and suffering, there are often financial burdens that affect families, railroad companies, insurers, communities, and taxpayers as well as the injured workers.

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