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U.S. Nonfatal Workplace Injuries and Illnesses Lowest Since '72

The rate of workplace injuries and illnesses in private industry in 2006 is at its lowest since the launch of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) survey in 1972, declining from 4.6 cases per 100 workers in 2005 to 4.4 cases in 2006, BLS said.

The agency noted that the decline rate resulted from a 2 percent increase in the number of hours worked and a 3 percent decrease in the number of nonfatal injuries and illnesses.

The manufacturing sector of the goods-producing industry sported especially significant lower rates of illnesses in 2006, dropping from 66.1 in 2005 to 27.7. per 10,000 workers in 2006.

Noting the 3 percent decline, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao said the Labor Department will “continue to focus on ensuring that workplace injury and illnesses rates continue to decline and that workers are healthy and safe on the job."

The new statistics seem to contradict critics who believe workplace safety is suffering from a perceived lack of enforcement efforts by OSHA. OSHA Administrator Edwin Foulke commented that the agency's tactics are “paying off.”

"The BLS report – showing the lowest rates since the Labor Department began collecting data in 1972 – confirms that OSHA's consistent emphasis on prevention is paying off with lower on-the-job injuries and illnesses,” Foulke said. “This report encourages us to continue our balanced strategy of fair and effective enforcement of standards, accident prevention education and cooperative programs with labor and industry."

By the Numbers

Both the goods-producing and service providing industries as a whole declined its rate of total recordable injuries and illnesses – falling 0.3 cases and 0.2 cases per 100 full-time workers, respectively, compared to rates reported in 2005. However, goods-producing industries as a whole reported a higher incidence of injuries and illnesses than did service-providing industries – 5.9 versus 3.9 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers.

Among goods-producing industry sectors, incidence rates in 2006 ranged from 3.5 in mining to 6.0 in manufacturing, according to BLS. While the rate of total recordable injury and illness cases in
manufacturing declined significantly in 2006, this industry sector accounted for more than 1 in 5 injury and illness cases reported in private industry in 2006, but comprised less than 13 percent of total employment.

Similarly, in the service-providing industry, the injury and illness incidence rate in the transportation and warehousing sector decreased significantly from 7.0 to 6.5 but it was still the highest injury and illness rate among service-providing industry sectors.

In addition, small establishments (those employing 1 to 10 workers) reported the lowest rate for injuries and illnesses combined (1.9 cases per 100 full-time workers), while mid-size establishments (those employing 50 to 249 workers) reported the highest rate (5.5 cases per 100 full-time workers). While the incidence rate remained relatively unchanged for small establishments employing fewer than 11 workers, the rates for establishments in all other size classes declined significantly in 2006 compared to 2005.

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