Nonfatal Private Sector Job Injuries, Illnesses Fall for Eighth Year, BLS Says

Nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses occurred at a rate of 3.5 cases per 100 full-time equivalent private sector workers in 2010, down from 3.6 the previous year, according to figures released Oct. 20 by the Labor Department.

The rate “has declined significantly each year since 2002,”the Bureau of Labor Statistics said in an annual report. In 2003, the rate was 5.0 cases per 100 workers.

Similarly, the number of injuries and illnesses reported by private sector employers declined to just under
3.1 million last year from 3.3 million in 2009. At the same time the workforce shrank, to an average of 106.4 million from 111.5 million.

“We are encouraged by the reported decline in incidence rates for workplace injuries and illnesses, which is reflective of the joint effort of government, business, unions and other organizations,”Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said.

On the other hand, the incidence of more serious injuries and illnesses that require days away from work, restriction, or transfer (DART)was unchanged at 1.8 percent per 100 workers in 2010.

It was the first year since the current industry classification began in 2003 that there was no decline in the DART rate.

DART cases accounted for 1.6 million injuries and illnesses in 2010, or about half of all cases, down from 1.7 million injuries and illnesses the previous year.

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 300 logs.

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 also is 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.

That is why OSHA “is working hard to ensure the completeness and accuracy of these data, which are compiled by the nation’s employers,”she added.

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 said.

Industries Vary

Within the private sector, BLS also reported that the rate of employees becoming sick or injured on the job varied by industry in 2010 compared with 2009, as follows:

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

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 percent in 2009);
• air transportation, 8.1 percent (8.5 percent);
• couriers and messengers, 7.2 percent (7.2 percent);and
• hospitals, 7.0 percent (7.3 percent).

Maine, Vermont, Montana Rank High

Three states had injury and illness rates of 5 percent and higher:Maine (5.6 percent), Vermont (5.2 percent), and Montana (5.0 percent).

The three states that tied for the lowest rate were Louisiana, New York, and Texas (2.7 percent).

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.

Government Rates Higher

State and local government employers reported injury and illness cases at higher rates than the private sector in 2010.

Data for state and local government 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 was 2.3 percent for state governments and 2.6 percent for local governments.

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 state employees, the workplaces with the highest illness and injury rates in 2010 were nursing and residential care facilities at 15.1 percent (not a category in 2009), and hospitals at 11.8 percent, up from 11.0 percent in 2009.

In local government, the sectors with the highest rates last year were nursing and residential care facilities (11.4 percent), justice and safety activities (10.2 percent), heavy and civil engineering construction (9.6 percent), and transportation and warehousing, (7.2 percent).

The workplace injury and illness data for 2010 and previous years may be accessed at:                                       http://op.bna.com/dlrcases.nsf/r?Open=lswr-8mxk4v.

Source: Daily Labor Report: News Archive > 2011 > October > 10/24/2011 > News > Safety & Health:
Nonfatal Private Sector Job Injuries, Illnesses Fall for Eighth Year, BLS Says