BLS: Fewer Workplace Injuries, Illnesses in 2004

The number of reported workplace injuries and illnesses in the private sector declined by 2.5 percent in 2004, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' most recent Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, which was issued Nov. 17.

The rate of private-sector workplace injuries and illnesses also experienced what the Department of Labor is calling a "statistically significant decline."

A total of 4.3 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses were reported in private industry workplaces during 2004, down from 4.4 million in 2003. Those injuries and illnesses occurred at a rate of 4.8 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers, a decline from 5.0 in 2003, according to BLS.

Of the 4.4 million private-sector workplace injuries and illnesses reported, 2.2 million required days away from work, transfer to another job, restricted duties or a combination of these actions. The remaining 2 million injuries and illnesses did not result in any time away from work, according to BLS.

Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao said the statistics "demonstrate the effectiveness of the department's three-pronged approach to protecting workers."

The three-pronged approach, Chao noted, includes compliance assistance, partnerships with labor and "targeted, aggressive enforcement against bad actors."

Goods-Producing Industries Had Higher Rate

Of the 4.3 million occupational injuries and illnesses in 2004, 4 million were injuries.

Of these 4 million injuries, 1.3 million, or 32 percent, occurred in the goods-producing industries (which include agriculture, mining, construction and manufacturing), while 2.7 million, or 68 percent, occurred in the service-providing industries (which include wholesale trade, retail trade, utilities and transportation and warehousing).

Goods-producing industries as a whole had an injury and illness rate of 6.5 cases per 100 full-time workers, while service-providing industries as a whole had a rate of 4.2. Both of these rates declined by 0.2 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers from 2003.

Among the goods-producing industry sectors, incidence rates during 2004 ranged from 3.8 in mining to 6.6 in manufacturing.

Within the service-providing industry sectors, incidence rates ranged from 0.9 finance and insurance sector to 7.3 in transportation and warehousing.

Goods-producing industries employed nearly 22 percent of the private-sector work force covered by this survey, while service-providing industries employed 78 percent of the work force. (Employment data are derived primarily from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.)

Manufacturing Sector Had Most Injuries

The manufacturing sector (21 percent), the health care and social assistance sector (16 percent) and the retail trade sector (15 percent) had the largest shares of injury cases.

Judging from the statistics, the manufacturing sector was among the most dangerous. While the manufacturing sector accounted for less than 14 percent of the private-sector work force, more than one in five injury and illness cases occurred in manufacturing.

The manufacturing sector had an injury and illness incidence rate of 6.6 cases per 100 full-time workers. Although that rate was significantly higher than private industry as a whole, it was down from 6.8 in 2003.

Transportation and warehousing had the highest incidence rate of any industry sector: 7.3 per 100 full-time workers, down from 7.8 in 2003.

Incidence rates in construction declined in 2004, but they were still among the highest. The construction sector experienced 6.4 cases per 100 full-time workers, down from 6.8 cases in 2003.

Utilities was the only industry sector in 2004 to experience a statistically significant increase in its incidence rate, rising from 4.4 cases per 100 full-time workers in 2003 to 5.2 in 2004. Approximately 60 percent of the increase in cases can be attributed to natural gas distribution, where the rate of injuries and illnesses increased from 4.8 to 7.3 cases per 100 full-time workers in 2004.

The 2004 survey and other occupational safety and health data can be viewed at the BLS Web site, located at http://www.bls.gov/iif.

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