Occupational Injuries, Illnesses Decline Overall in 2010 but Increase in Manufacturing Sector

While Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said she was “encouraged” by the decline of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses reported in 2010, she stressed that the 3.1 million recorded cases remains too high, particularly as reflected in the health care and social assistance industries. The manufacturing sector was the only industry to record an increase in injury and illness rates in 2010.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the 2010 nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses among private industry employers on Oct. 20. The results show a rate of 3.5 injury and illness cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers, down from a rate of 3.6 in 2009. Injury and illness rates were highest in 2010 among mid-sized, private industry establishments employing between 50 and 249 workers and lowest among small workplaces employing fewer than 11 workers.

Manufacturing was the only private industry sector to experience an increase in its workplace injury and illness rate in 2010. The industry recorded 4.4 cases per 100 full-time workers, up from a rate of 4.3 in 2009. According to BLS, the decline in hours worked in this industry outpaced the decline of reported injury and illness cases.

It was a different story last year for the manufacturing sector: In 2009, the injury and illness rate for manufacturing dropped 23 percent, or 161,100 cases, from the previous year and represented nearly 39 percent of the total private industry decline in injuries and illnesses in 2009.

In health care and social assistance, the only industry that experienced both an increase in employment and hours worked in 2010, the injury and illness rate decreased from 5.4 cases per 100 full-time workers in 2009 to 5.2 in 2010. Solis, however, pointed out that the injury and illness rate for this industry is one of the highest, including high-risk industries like construction and manufacturing. She said OSHA would continue working with employers, workers and unions in this industry to reduce risks.

The private construction sector experienced a 7 percent decline, or a reduction of 0.3 cases, in the total recordable case incidence rate by recording 4.0 cases per 100 full-time workers.

Solis: Work Should Not Equal Health Sacrifices

In the public sector, Solis called the 5.7 injury and illness rate – more than 60 percent higher than the private sector rate – “alarmingly high.” She also expressed concern about employers’ recordkeeping practices and said OSHA is working to ensure the recorded data is complete and accurate.

“Serious injuries and illnesses can knock a working family out of the middle class,” Solis stated. “Workers should not have to sacrifice their health and safety to earn a paycheck.”

According to BLS, while incidence rates in private industry declined significantly in 2010 for total recordable cases and for other recordable cases, incidence rates for cases with days away from work; for cases of job transfer and restriction; and for cases of days away from work, job transfer or restriction together each remained unchanged from 2009.

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