The Department of Internal Medicine Program in Occupational and Environmental Health, in collaboration with New Mexico Department of Health, and New Mexico Occupational Health Registry (NMOHR) recently secured more than $300,000 in grant funding from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), to analyze trends related to on-the-job illness and injury among New Mexico's workers over the next three years.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, six out of every 100 New Mexican workers experienced work-related illnesses and injuries in 2003; a rate higher than any other state in the Southwest region. In addition, the state's payout of workers' compensation benefits exceeded $197 million in 2003, a 43-percent increase since 1999, according to the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI), a non-profit non-partisan organization of experts on social insurance.

The first step in preventing occupational injury and illness is to identify where and how workers are being injured since a wide variety of factors can affect worker health, ranging from exposure to poisonous substances to poorly designed work spaces.

Collecting information on worker health in a systematic way can help to identify trends in injuries or illnesses, information which can inform future prevention efforts. For example, over the years, occupational injury and illness data have helped to protect workers' health by identifying and controlling occupational exposures to lead, silica dust, and other hazards.

New Mexico and 12 other states worked collaboratively with the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to create a model for compiling occupational health data. The model, based on 19 health indicators, was used to create a snapshot of worker health in the 13 states for the year 2000.

For measures such as occupational fatality, New Mexico measured poorly, having the third highest rate (4.4 fatalities/100,000 workers) of the participating states. However, New Mexico is doing better in other indicators, such as exhibiting the lowest rate of hospitalizations for work-related burns, and having low rates of musculoskeletal disorders, as reported by private sector employers.

Other states have since joined the initiative to create a more uniform picture of worker health across the nation. To learn more, you can view and download copy of the report, "Putting Data to Work: Occupational Health Indicators from Thirteen Pilot States for 2000", from the CSTE website at www.cste.org or call Dr. Karen B. Mulloy, New Mexico Occupational Health Registry Director at (505) 272-4027 or Stephanie Moraga-McHaley, SurveillanceCoordinator at (505) 272-4672.


Contact: Cindy Foster, 272-3322