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Workplace Injury, Illness Rates Remain Largely Unchanged in 2011, BLS Reports

Thursday, November 1, 2012

On-the-job injury and illness rates among private- and public-sector workers in 2011 were unchanged from 2010, marking the third consecutive year they have remained relatively steady, a report released Oct. 25 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed.

The private-sector rate of 3.5 injuries or illnesses for every 100 workers during 2011 was identical to the 2010 rate and just 0.1 percentage point below the 2009 rate of 3.6. Injuries accounted for about 95 percent of the 3.8 million injury and illness cases, the same percentage as in 2010.

Among state and local government workers, the 2011 rate was 5.7 injuries and illnesses for every 100 workers, the same as the 2010 rate, and 0.1 percentage point below the 2009 rate of 5.8 percent. The report did not include rates for the federal workforce.

This is the first time since at least 2003 that the private sector rate did not decline and the first time since 2007, the year BLS began tracking public-sector rates, that the rate for local and state government workers did not decrease.

OSHA Sees Positive Results

The Department of Labor saw good news in the report's finding that rates decreased in industries where OSHA emphasized inspections and consultations.

“OSHA is pleased that, in 2011, the work-related injury rate decreased among private-sector workers employed in the manufacturing, construction and service sectors, which is the focus of most of OSHA's activities,” a Department of Labor spokesman told BNA Oct 25 in a written statement.

The statement also pointed out that the injury rate increased among workers employed in three areas where OSHA has limited jurisdiction: employers with 10 or fewer employees, state and local governments, and agriculture.

Industry Details

In the BLS breakdown of injury and illness numbers by industry groups, health care ranked the highest. The industry rates for 2011 and 2010 are as follows:

• health care and social assistance, 5.2 percent (5.2 in 2010);

• transportation and warehousing, 5.0 percent (5.2);

• manufacturing, 4.4 percent (4.4);

• natural resources and mining, 4.0 percent (3.7);

• construction, 3.9 percent (4.0);

• retail trade, 3.9 percent (4.1); and

• wholesale trade, 3.2 percent (3.4).

 

When BLS calculated the rates for specific industries, health care and transportation led the list of industries with a rate of 6.0 percent or higher:

• nursing and residential care, 7.9 percent (8.3 in 2010);

• air transportation, 7.3 percent (8.1);

• couriers and messengers, 7.2 percent (7.2);

• animal production, 6.7 (5.2);

• hospitals, 6.6 percent (6.8);

• wood product manufacturing, 6.5 percent (6.2);

• primary metals manufacturing, 6.1 percent (6.3); and

• performing arts, spectator sports, and related industries, 6.0 percent (6.7).

 

Government Workers

For employees of local governments, BLS found that among every type of government service, the injury and illness rate was above 6.0 percent, except for education. The local services with the highest rates were law enforcement and safety, 10.3 percent (10.2 in 2010); and nursing and residential care facilities, 10.2 percent (11.4).

At the state government level, job categories with rates higher than 6.0 percent were nursing and residential care facilities, 13.1 percent (15.1 in 2010); hospitals, 9.2 percent (11.8); and law enforcement and safety, 7.6 percent (6.0).

Accuracy Debated

The BLS figures are estimates based on the results of the agency's annual Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. Each year, about 280,000 employers are asked to submit confidential data about their workers' health. The information mirrors what the employers are required to keep in their Occupational Safety and Health Administration Form 300 logs.

Because the log information comes from workers voluntarily reporting injuries or illnesses, the accuracy of the BLS data is frequently challenged by safety advocates, who contend that many incidents go unreported (41 OSHR 994, 11/17/11).

Two days before BLS issued this latest report, David Michaels, the assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, told an audience at the National Safety Council Congress in Orlando, Fla., that he believes injuries and illnesses are underreported.

In comparison, the BLS's workplace fatality data, the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, is an actual count of work-related deaths. The preliminary fatality report for 2011, released on Sept. 20, found little change in the fatality rate; 3.5 deaths for every 100,000 workers, compared with the 2010 rate of 3.6 deaths (42 OSHR 863, 9/27/12).

By Bruce Rolfsen  


The new injury and illness data are available at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/archives/osh_10252012.pdf.

Prior years' data are available at http://www.bls.gov/iif/osh_nwrl.htm#industry.

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