Industry Research

Frequency, Severity of Injuries and Illnesses Down

Workplace injury and illness rates have continued to decline over the past few years despite a period of economic growth, which tends to be accompanied by a spike in injuries.
By: | January 19, 2015

“Slightly more than 3 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported by private industry employers in 2013, resulting in an incidence rate of 3.3 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers,” announced the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “The rate reported for 2013 continues the pattern of statistically significant declines that, with the exception of 2012, occurred annually for the last 11 years.”

The first of two reports from the BLS last month noted that the reduction in the rate was “significant” for workers in the manufacturing, retail trade, and utilities sectors. Other sectors had similar results from the previous year.

For private industry workers, the incidence rate of injuries only in 2013 was 3.1 cases per 100 FTEs, down from 3.2 in 2012. The rate of illnesses was statistically unchanged.

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The rate of injuries and illnesses for state and local government workers combined is “significantly higher than the private industry rate.” However, it decreased to 5.2 cases per 100 FTEs in 2013 from 5.6 in 2012.

“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,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “But we cannot ignore those 3 million workers. The severity of their injuries and illnesses varies widely; some are amputees, some suffer back injuries while others have to struggle for each breath.”

The second report released by the BLS tracked injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work in 2013.

“The overall incidence rate of nonfatal occupational injury and illness cases requiring days away from work to recuperate was 109.4 cases per 10,000 FTEs in 2013 down from the 2012 rate of 111.8,” the report said. “The median days away from work to recuperate, a key measure of severity of injuries and illnesses, was eight days in 2013, one fewer than reported in 2012.”

The rate for days away from work in the private sector in 2013 was 99.9 cases per 10,000 FTEs, relatively unchanged from 2012. However, the rate of falls on the same level increased to 15.4 from 14.8 in 2012. The BLS said that rate was up in:

Construction: from 12.6 to 16.1.

Wholesale trade: from 9.9 to 11.4.

Transportation and warehousing: from 22.9 to 28.3.

The rate for cases involving days away from work, job transfer, or restriction (commonly referred to as DART) declined for the first time since 2009.

Musculoskeletal disorders comprised 33 percent of all injury and illness cases in 2013 requiring days away from work with the highest numbers affecting nursing assistants and laborers and freight, stock and material movers.

The report also noted that violence and other injuries by persons or animals accounted for 4 percent of the cases in the private sector. Violence among workers in the health care and social assistance sectors accounted for 13 percent of injuries and illnesses with the rate increasing for the second year in a row — to 16.2 cases per 10,000 FTEs from 15.1 in 2012.

Nancy Grover is the president of NMG Consulting and the Editor of Workers' Compensation Report, a publication of our parent company, LRP Publications. She can be reached at [email protected]

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]