Occupational Illnesses Down in 2004

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' most recent Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, there were about 249,000 newly reported cases of occupational illnesses in private industry in 2004, down by nearly 8 percent from 269,500 cases in 2003.

Service-providing industries accounted for approximately 53 percent of these cases, while goods-producing industries accounted for 47 percent.

The manufacturing sector accounted for 42 percent of all newly reported cases of occupational illnesses.

The "All Other Illnesses" category accounted for 65 percent of total illness cases in 2004. In 2003, this category comprised over 75 percent of all illnesses.

Beginning with the 2004 calendar year, OSHA included "Hearing loss" as a separate illness category. Hearing loss accounted for more than 11 percent of all illnesses in 2004. In 2003, hearing loss cases were included in the "All Other Illnesses" category.

The Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses measures the number of new, work-related illness cases that are recognized, diagnosed and reported during the year. Some conditions (for example, long-term latent illnesses caused by exposure to carcinogens) often are difficult to relate to the workplace and are not adequately recognized and reported, according to BLS.

Such long-term latent illnesses are believed to be understated in the survey's illness measures. In contrast, the overwhelming majority of the reported new illnesses are those that are easier to directly relate to workplace activity (for example, contact dermatitis or carpal tunnel syndrome).

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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