New Report Shows 2010 Employee Injury Rates Largely Unchanged From Previous Year

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Key Takeaway:Injury and illness rates for 2010 largely unchanged from 2009.

Potential Impacts:The information is used by employers and regulators to measure success of safety efforts, set policies.

What's Next: The Bureau of Labor Statistics releases additional detailed data on Nov. 9.

By Bruce Rolfsen

Workplace injury and illness rates for 2010 were largely unchanged from 2009, according to information released Oct. 20 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Data from private employers showed that 3.5 percent of workers reported an injury or illness in 2010, down from 3.6 percent in 2009. Unchanged was the “days away from work, job transfer or restriction rate,” otherwise known as the DART rate. The DART rate for the second consecutive year was 1.8 percent.

For the DART rate, 2010 marked the first time since the current industry classification began in 2003 that there was no decline.

State and local government employers reported higher injury and illness rates than the private sector; those rates, too, were largely identical to 2009. Data for state and local governments show an injury and illness rate of 5.7 percent for 2010, down from 5.8 percent in 2009.

BLS did not provide a combined DART rate for state and local governments, but its figures revealed that the DART rate for state governments was at 2.3 percent while it was at 2.6 percent for local governments.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis called the 5.7 percent public sector rate “alarming.”

“We must continue to work with state and local governments to ensure the safety of our public employees,” Solis said.

For all private and public sectors, workers reported 3.1 million cases of injuries or illnesses, down from 3.3 million in 2009. At the same time the workforce shrank, from 130.3 million workers in 2009 to 124.9 in 2001. About 95 percent of the reported cases were injuries.

The BLS numbers are estimates based on the results of the agency's annual Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. About 280,000 employers are asked to submit information on workers' health that mirrors what firms are required to keep in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Form 300 logs. From that information, the BLS estimates workplace rates.

Accuracy Concerns.

Because BLS depends on workers to voluntarily report medical problems to employers and for the information to be accurately recorded by employers, the annual reports are frequently criticized for understating safety and health threats.

“There is a significant problem with reporting,” Peg Seminario, AFL-CIO director of safety and health, told BNA Oct. 20.

Solis said she is also concerned about the accuracy of the data.

“We are concerned with poor record-keeping practices and programs that discourage workers from reporting injuries and illnesses,” she said in a statement. “That's why OSHA is working hard to ensure the completeness and accuracy of these data, which are compiled by the nation's employers.”

While BLS and OSHA are trying to gauge how widespread underreporting is, those initiatives did not change how information was collected and estimated for the 2010 report, a BLS spokesman.

Data by Industry Sector.

The bureau also broke out by private industry sector the chances of employees becoming sick or injured because of their jobs. These breakouts are as follows:

  • transportation and warehousing, 5.2 percent (5.2 in 2009);
  • healthcare and social assistance, 5.2 (5.2);
  • manufacturing, 4.4 percent (4.3);
  • construction, 4.0 percent (4.3);
  • natural resources and mining, 3.7 percent (4.0);
  • retail trade, 4.1 percent (4.2); and
  • wholesale trade, 3.4 percent (3.3).

A closer look at specific private industries among those groups showed the most hazardous types of employment in 2010 were in:

  • nursing and residential care, 8.3 percent (8.4 in 2009);
  • air transportation, 8.1 percent (8.5);
  • couriers and messengers, 7.2 percent (7.2); and
  • hospitals, 7.0 percent (7.3).
Healthcare Workplaces Rank High.

For state employees, the workplaces with the highest illness and injury rates were: nursing and residential care facilities, 15.1 percent (not a category in 2009), and hospitals, 11.8 percent (11).

Among local governments, the sectors with the most reports were nursing and residential care facilities, 11.4 percent (11.1); justice and safety activities, 10.2 percent (11.5); heavy and civil engineering construction, 9.6 percent (13.1); and transportation and warehousing, 7.2 percent (7.6).

By State.

Three states had injury and illness rates of 5 percent and higher: Maine, 5.6 percent; Vermont, 5.2 percent; and Montana, 5 percent. Three states tied for the lowest rate of 2.7 percent—Louisiana, New York, Texas. State rates were not available for Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Dakota because those states do not participate in the data collection effort.

By Bruce Rolfsen

Injury and illness data for 2010 and previous years are available at