The good news is that the number of reported workplace injures and illnesses continues to decline, according to the latest report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2013 Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. The bad news is that more than half of the 3 million workers who represent the human cost of those numbers suffered a serious injury or illness in 2013.
“…In this extraordinarily high number, it is easy to focus on the headline and miss the trend line,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “We are encouraged that the rates continue to decline over the past few years, even during this period of healthy economic growth when we would expect the rate of injuries to rise.”
Michaels called the decrease in the injury rate “a product of tireless work by those employers, unions, worker advocates and occupational safety and health professionals all coupled with the efforts of federal and state government organizations that make worker safety and health a high priority each and every day.”
Over half of the more than 3 million private industry injury and illness cases reported in 2013 were of a more serious nature that involved days away from work, job transfer or restriction (DART cases). These cases occurred at a rate of 1.7 cases per 100 full-time workers, a “statistically significant decrease” from 2012, according to BLS.
The rates for the two components of DART cases – cases involving days away from work and cases requiring job transfer or restriction – was unchanged at 1 and 0.7 cases per 100 workers, respectively, in 2013. Other recordable cases – those not involving days away from work, job transfer or restriction – accounted for the remaining 1.4 million injury and illness cases in 2013 and was unchanged at a rate of 1.6 cases per 100 full-time workers.
The TRC injury and illness incidence rate remained highest in 2013 among mid-size private industry workplaces (those employing between 50 and 249 workers) and lowest among small establishments (those employing fewer than 11 workers).
“We cannot ignore those 3 million workers,” insisted Michaels. “The severity of their injuries and illnesses varies widely; some are amputees, some suffer back injuries, while others have to struggle for each breath. Work injuries can instantly pull the rug out from a family striving for a good middle-class life.”
According to BLS, injuries accounted for 2.9 million out of 3 million reported injuries and illnesses. Among injuries, over 2.1 million (75.5 percent) occurred in service-providing industries, which employed 82.4 percent of the private industry workforce. The remaining 0.7 million injuries (24.5 percent) occurred in goods-producing industries, which accounted for 17.6 percent of private industry employment in 2013.
Workplace illnesses accounted for just over 5 percent of the reported injury and illness cases in 2013. The rate of workplace illnesses in 2013 (16.6 cases per 10,000 full-time workers) was not statistically different from the 2012 incidence rate (17.3 cases). Goods-producing industries accounted for 34.4 percent of all occupational illness cases in 2013.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2015, OSHA reporting requirements will change. Employers will be responsible for reporting all fatal work injuries within 8 hours, and all in-patient hospitalizations, amputations or losses of an eye within 24 hours. The agency also has updated the list of industries required to keep injury and illness records.