BLS: Nonfatal Occupational Injuries Declined in 2009, with Manufacturing, Construction Injuries Dropping the Most

On Oct. 21, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced that nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses among private industry employers declined in 2009 to a rate of 3.6 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers, down from a total case rate of 3.9 in 2008. Combined, the manufacturing and construction industry sectors represented more than half of the total decline in injuries and illnesses in 2009.

BLS also reported a decline in the total number of cases across all industries from 3.7 million in 2008 to 3.3 million in 2009. Even so, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis stressed the workplace safety remains a priority.

“While the reported decline in workplace injuries and illnesses is encouraging, 3.3 million workplace injuries and illnesses are 3.3 million too many,” said Solis. “No worker should fear being injured or made sick for a paycheck.

“Complete and accurate workplace injury records can serve as the basis for employer programs to investigate injuries and prevent future occurrences. Most employers understand this and do their best to prevent worker injuries, but some do not,” Solis added. That is why OSHA, she said, “is aggressively working to ensure the completeness and accuracy of injury data compiled by the nation’s employers. We are concerned about the widespread existence of programs that discourage workers from reporting injuries, and we will continue to issue citations and penalties to employers that intentionally under-report workplace injuries.”

According to BLS, the total recordable case injury and illness incidence rate among private industry employers has declined significantly each year since 2003, when estimates from the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses were first published using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS).

Key findings from the 2009 Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses include:

  • The manufacturing industry sector reported the largest year-to-year decline in injuries and illnesses since NAICS was introduced in 2003 – falling by 23 percent (161,100 cases) from 2008 to 2009, which lowers the incidence rate by 0.7 cases to 4.3 cases per 100 workers. The drop in cases reported in this sector represents nearly 39 percent of the total private industry decline in injuries and illnesses in 2009.
  • The construction industry sector reported 71,700 fewer cases in 2009, compared to 2008 – a 22 percent decline, lowering the incidence rate by 0.4 cases to 4.3 cases per 100 workers. The decline in reported cases among the manufacturing and construction industry sectors together represents nearly 56 percent of the total private industry decline in injuries and illnesses in 2009.
  • Incidence rates for injuries and illnesses combined among private industry establishments declined significantly in 2009 for all case types, with the exception of days-away-from-work cases whose rate remained relatively unchanged from 2008. The number of cases of injuries and illnesses combined declined significantly in 2009 for all case types.
  • The incidence rate of injuries only among private industry workers fell from 3.7 to 3.4 cases per 100 workers between 2008 and 2009, resulting from an 11 percent drop in the number of injury cases.
  • Both the incidence rate and the number of illness cases declined significantly in 2009, compared to 2008 – led by a decline among the skin diseases category which accounted for nearly 47 percent of the decline in illness cases among private industry establishments.
  • Slightly more than one half of the 3.3 million private industry injury and illness cases reported nationally in 2009 were of a more serious nature that involved days away from work, job transfer or restriction. These occurred at a rate of 1.8 cases per 100 workers, declining from 2.0 cases in 2008.

“Too many Americans suffer each year from preventable injuries or illnesses they received while on the job,” Solis concluded. “Even in these difficult economic times, we must keep in mind that no job is a good job unless it’s a safe job.”

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