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Am J Ind Med. 2010 Feb;53(2):204-15. doi: 10.1002/ajim.20740.

Language preference and non-traumatic low back disorders in Washington State workers' compensation.

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  • 1Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention Program, Washington State Department of Labor & Industries, Olympia, Washington 98504-4330, USA.



Workers in the United States with limited English proficiency likely perform more hazardous work, experience higher rates of work-related injury and illness, and have worse disability outcomes.


We conducted a descriptive study of employment characteristics, timeliness and utilization of workers' compensation (WC) insurance benefits, cost and occupational health outcomes for Washington State WC state fund, non-traumatic low back disorders (LBD) claimants by language preference.


A greater proportion of Spanish language preferring (SLP) LBD claims filed were accepted and resulted in lost work time than English language preferring (ELP) LBD claims. There were significant differences in the demographic, employment, and occupational characteristics between the SLP and ELP compensable claimant populations. The SLP LBD compensable claimants had greater time loss duration, greater medical and total claim costs, more use of physical therapy and vocational services than the ELP LBD compensable claimants. With the exception of the timeliness for providing the first time loss payment, the time periods for provision of insurance benefits did not differ between the SLP and ELP populations. SLP compensable claimants received less back surgery and had comparable permanent partial disability payments to the ELP population. Employers were more likely to protest the acceptance of a SLP compensable than one in an ELP LBD compensable claim.


For those injured workers accessing the Washington State WC system, we observed differences based on language preference for pre-injury, and workers compensation outcomes. Further research is needed to explain the observed differences.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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