Nation's Workplace Injury and Illness Rate Declined in 2005, BLS Says

While the number of workplace injuries and illnesses in 2005 was about the same as it was in 2004, an increase in the total number of hours worked means the nation's injury and illness rate declined last year, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

A total of 4.2 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses were reported in private industry in 2005, according to the BLS Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses.

Injuries and illnesses in 2005 occurred at a rate of 4.6 per 100 full-time workers, down from a rate of 4.8 in 2004, according to the survey.

Noting that the injury and illness rate in 2005 marked an all-time low since the launch of the BLS survey in 1992, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao called the numbers "more good news for America's workers."

Chao said the numbers indicate that OSHA's three-pronged strategy of compliance assistance, partnerships and aggressive enforcement is working.

"As encouraging as the report is, there is more to do and the department is working hard to make workplaces even safer and healthier for America's workers," Chao added.

Earlier in the year, the agency's Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries reported a 1 percent drop in fatalities from 2004 to 2005.

One in Five Injuries and Illnesses Occurred in Manufacturing

Breaking down the numbers, goods-producing industries as a whole had an injury and illness incidence rate of 6.2 cases per 100 full-time workers, while service-providing industries had a rate of 4.1 cases per 100 full-time workers. The rates for both categories declined slightly in 2005.

Among goods-producing industry sectors, incidence rates in 2005 ranged from 3.6 in mining to 6.3 in construction and in manufacturing, according to BLS.

In service-providing industry sectors, rates ranged from 1.0 in finance and insurance to 7.0 in transportation and warehousing. Despite the low rate, finance and insurance was the only industry sector to experience a statistically significant increase in the overall incidence rate in 2005, rising by 0.1 case per 100 full-time workers, according to BLS.

Although the manufacturing sector accounted for only 13 percent of private-sector employment, it had the largest share of workplace injuries in 2005. Of the 4.2 million injuries and illnesses reported in the private sector in 2005, one in five (20.2 percent) occurred in manufacturing. Construction was second overall, accounting for 10.2 percent of all private-sector injury and illness cases in 2005.

Three manufacturing industries were among the 14 private-sector industries reporting 100,000 or more cases in 2005: transportation equipment manufacturing with 146,800 cases; fabricated metal product manufacturing with 121,800 cases; and food manufacturing with 114,2000 cases.

Small businesses - those employing one to 10 workers - reported the lowest rate for injuries and illnesses combined, while mid-size businesses - those employing 50 to 249 workers - reported the highest rate. Small businesses reported a rate of 2.0 cases per 100 full-time workers, while mid-size establishments reported a rate of 5.8 cases.

Of the 4.2 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses in the private sector in 2005, approximately 4 million were injuries.

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