Chao: Injury and Illness Statistics are 'Good News'

The 2000 Lost Work Day Injury and Illness data released by BLS this week showed the number of workers with injuries and illnesses requiring time away from work declined, continuing the steady drop since 1992.

Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao says the latest statistics for loss of workdays due to injury and illness released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) "is more good news for workers, their families and their employers."

The 2000 Lost Work Day Injury and Illness data released by BLS this week showed the number of workers with injuries and illnesses requiring time away from work declined, continuing the steady drop since 1992 when BLS first started collecting this data.

BLS found a total of 1.7 million injuries and illnesses in private industry required recuperation away from work beyond the day of the incident in 2000. The number of these cases in 2000 was about the same as in 1999. Since 1992 (when the series started), there has been a steady decline in the number of these lost workday injuries and illnesses.

"But the good news is tempered by the fact that truck drivers, laborers, nursing aides and other hard working employees continue to suffer high rates of injuries and illnesses on the job," Chao noted. "Their safety and health is important to all of us, and we must continue to find ways to reduce hazards and improve their working conditions."

Truck drivers have experienced the most injuries and illnesses with time away from work since 1993.

The number of injuries and illnesses reported with only restricted work activity, rather than days away recuperating, remained at over 1 million cases in 2000, after increasing by nearly 70 percent during the previous eight-year period.

As in the preceding six years, more than four out of 10 injuries and illnesses resulting in time away from work in 2000 were sprains or strains, most often involving the back, according to BLS. The number of cases of sprains and strains declined by over 24 percent from 1994 to 2000, almost the same as the decline for all cases.

From 1999 to 2000, the number of lost workday cases due to fractures and back pain increased. The increase to back pain cases came after an almost 32 percent decrease from 1994 to 1998.

Chao admitted more work is needed in reducing falls, assaults on health care workers and injuries resulting from repetitive motion.

She said she thought the Occupational Safety and Health Administration''s (OSHA) new four-point ergonomics plan, announced last week, will reduce ergonomic injuries in the "shortest possible" timeframe. "While the number of workers suffering musculoskeletal disorders has continued to drop, we are determined to accelerate that decline and reduce both the number and the rate of these often painful and disabling disorders," said Chao.

Other interesting highlights from the BLS report include:

  • Men accounted for nearly two out of three of the 1.7 million cases, a proportion somewhat higher than their share (59 percent) of the hours worked by all private wage and salary workers.
  • Workers aged 24 and under accounted for over 14 percent of the cases and almost 15 percent of the total hours worked by all private wage and salary workers. Workers aged 25 to 44 accounted for 55 percent of the cases and 53 percent of the hours worked. Workers aged 45 and older accounted for 30 percent of the cases and 32 percent of the hours worked.
  • Operators, fabricators, and laborers led all other occupational groups in number of cases, accounting for 41 percent of the total. This group includes four of the 10 jobs - truck drivers nonconstruction laborers, construction laborers and assemblers - that accounted for 307,300 injuries and illnesses with time away from work.
  • Almost six out of 10 workers had at least a year of service with their employer when they sustained their injury or illness. Almost a fourth had over five years of service, suggesting that many experienced workers incur lost workday injuries.

The report from BLS is available at www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/osh/case/osnr0015.pdf.

by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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