In response to data released last week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on workplace injuries and illness, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said she was encouraged by the progress employers and workers are making in reducing injuries and illnesses.
"The new data released by the BLS covering 1999 shows us where our efforts are succeeding and where we need to direct our focus as we move toward developing a 21st Century workforce," said Chao.
Chao noted that despite the fact that there are more Americans in the workforce than ever before, the number of ergonomics-related injuries continued to decline in 1999.
However, musculoskeletal injuries accounted for nearly one-third of all the injuries, according to the data.
"This finding demonstrates the need for a solid, comprehensive approach to ergonomics," said Chao. "It also points to a need to address injuries before they occur, through prevention and compliance assistance, rather than just rely on reactionary methods."
In her statement, Chao reiterated her promise to work with unions, employers, safety professionals and Congress to develop an "effective" strategy to reduce ergonomic injuries.
"This is a serious problem," noted Chao. "We are addressing it head-on, and we intend to find a solution that works."
Also of note in the data was the fact that truck drivers, laborers and nurses'' aides suffer especially high injury and illness rates with time away from their jobs.
"These workers -- together with their employers, families and communities -- pay a high price for the loss," said Chao. "Together, we must keep finding ways to reduce these rates and improve safety, health and productivity of these workers."
by Virginia Sutcliffe