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BLS survey indicates decline in worker injury and illness rates (11/2)

November 2, 2009
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Nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses among private industry employers in 2008 occurred at a rate of 3.9 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers — a decline from 4.2 cases in 2007, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Oct. 29th. Similarly, the number of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses reported in 2008 declined to 3.7 million cases, compared to 4 million cases in 2007. The total recordable case (TRC) injury and illness incidence rate among private industry employers has declined significantly each year since 2003, when estimates from the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII) were first published using the 2002 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). (See http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshsum.htm for links to news releases and tables for prior years.)

National public sector estimates covering nearly 19 million State and local government workers — for example, police protection and fire protection — are available for the first time from the SOII for reference year 2008. (See table 1.) Nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses among state and local government workers combined occurred at a higher rate (6.3 cases per 100 full-time workers) than among private industry workers in 2008.

Key findings of the 2008 Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses:
  • Incidence rates for injuries and illnesses combined among private industry establishments declined significantly in 2008 for all case types, with the exception of job transfer or restriction cases whose rate remained unchanged from 2007. (See chart 1.) The number of cases of injuries and illnesses combined declined significantly in 2008 for all case types.
  • For injuries only, both the incidence rate and the number of cases in private industry establishments declined significantly in 2008 compared to 2007 — each falling 8 percent from the year earlier.
  • Looking at illnesses, both the incidence rate and the number of cases declined significantly in 2008 compared to 2007 — mainly the result of a decline among the ‘All other illnesses’ category, which accounted for nearly 84 percent of the decline in illness cases among private industry establishments.
  • Manufacturing was the only private industry sector in 2008 in which the rate of job transfer or restriction cases exceeded the rate of cases with days away from work, continuing an 11 year trend.
  • The total recordable case injury and illness incidence rate was highest in 2008 among mid-size private industry establishments (those employing between 50 and 249 workers) and lowest among small establishments (those employing fewer than 11 workers) compared to establishments of other sizes. (See table 3 and chart 2.)
Slightly more than one-half of the 3.7 million private industry injury and illnesses cases reported nationally in 2008 were of a more serious nature that involved days away from work, job transfer, or restriction — commonly referred to as DART cases. (See table 2.) These occurred at a rate of 2.0 cases per 100 workers, declining from 2.1 cases in 2007. (See table 7.) Among the two components of DART cases, the rate of cases involving days away from work fell from 1.2 to 1.1 cases per 100 workers, while the rate for cases resulting in job transfer or restriction remained unchanged at 0.9 cases in 2008. Other recordable cases — those not involving days away from work, job transfer, or restriction--accounted for the remaining injury and illness cases nationally and occurred at a lower rate in 2008 (1.9 cases per 100 workers) compared to 2007 (2.1 cases per 100 workers).

Private Industry Injuries and Illnesses

Injuries. Approximately 3.5 million (94.9 percent) of the 3.7 million nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses in 2008 were injuries — of which 2.5 million (71.2 percent) occurred in service-providing industries, which employed 80.1 percent of the private industry workforce covered by this survey. (See table 5.) The remaining 1.0 million injuries (28.8 percent) occurred in goods-producing industries, which accounted for 19.9 percent of private industry employment in 2008.

Illnesses. Workplace illnesses accounted for slightly more than 5 percent of the 3.7 million injury and illness cases in 2008. (See table 6b.) Private industry employers reported 18,900 fewer illness cases in 2008 — down to 187,400 cases compared to 206,300 in 2007. This resulted in a decline in the rate of workplace illnesses in 2008 from 21.8 to 19.7 cases per 10,000 full-time workers. (See table 6a.)

Goods-producing industries as a whole accounted for approximately 38 percent of all occupational illness cases and were responsible for more than two-thirds of the decline in illnesses reported among private industry workplaces in 2008. Consequently, both the number and rate of illnesses declined significantly for goods-producing industries as a whole in 2008. The manufacturing sector accounted for 31.5 percent of all occupational illnesses cases and reported 12,000 fewer illnesses in 2008 compared to 2007. Both the number and rate of illness cases among service-providing industries as a whole remained statistically unchanged in 2008, compared to 2007.

National Public Sector Estimates

National public sector estimates covering nearly 19 million State and local government workers — for example, Police protection (NAICS 922120) and Fire protection (NAICS 922160) — are available from the SOII for the first time for 2008.

Nearly 940,000 injury and illness cases were reported among State and local government workers combined in 2008, resulting in a rate of 6.3 cases per 100 workers — significantly higher than the rate among private industry workers (3.9 cases per 100 workers). Approximately 4 in 5 injuries and illnesses reported in the public sector occurred among local government workers, resulting in an injury and illness rate of 7.0 cases per 100 workers — significantly higher than the 4.7 cases per 100 workers in State government. (See Chart 3.)

In addition to the industry-level estimates available for the first time with this release, more detailed national public sector estimates will be available in the future covering case and worker demographics for cases that involved days away from work.

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