Bureau of labor statistics 1995 occupational injury and illness survey results are in. Non-fatal work-related injuries and illnesses for private industry are at the lowest rate in a decade, and have been declining for the past three years. Rates dropped to 8.1 cases per 100 full-time workers in 1995, the lowest since 1986.

There were nearly 3 million lost workday cases in 1995. And, as lost time accidents have followed a steady pattern of decline throughout the past five years, cases involving restricted work activity in the same five years have grown from .07 cases per 100 workers to 1.1 cases.

Nearly 6.1 million of the 6.6 million total injuries and illnesses resulted in lost work time, medical treatment other than first aid, loss of consciousness, restriction of work or motion, or transfer to another job. For mid-size facilities with 50-249 workers in most industries surveyed, injury rates were generally higher.

Newly reported illnesses accounted for 495,000 cases of occupational illnesses, with manufacturing facilities accounting for just over three-fifths of that number. Sixty-two percent (308,000) of those illnesses were associated with repeated trauma disorders. However the incidence of these disorders was 7 percent below the 1994 figure.

The areas experiencing the greatest decline of repeated trauma disorders have recently been a focus of attention for those concerned about ergonomic hazards -- OSHA, labor unions, and employers -- Peg Seminario, director of the AFL-CIO Department of Occupational Safety and Health pointed out in a statement to the press.

Per 100 workers, construction (13), manufacturing (12), and agriculture (11) experienced the greatest number of injuries and illnesses. Figures for those with low incidents -- finance (3), services (7), and mining (8), were closer in number to the previous three years' incident rates.

The BLS conducted a probability sample of 250,000 private industry facilities for this survey.

Targeting power press hazards, especially those that cause amputations, is on OSHA's to-do list for 1997.

Over 22,000 facilities employing over one million workers have a chance to receive emphasized education and enforcement focus. OSHA claims employers are spending from $5,500 to $47,000 in workers' comp and indirect costs for each of the injuries. The ten industries, including the hardware, fabricated plate work, sheet metal work, and manufactured furniture industries, experienced 650 amputations in 1994. The program, named OSHA's National Emphasis Program on Mechanical Power Presses, is set to begin with outreach efforts in April. Enforcement emphasis will start in late June or early July. For more information visit OSHA at http://www.osha.gov.

EPA referred 262 criminal cases to the Department of Justice in 1996.

Over $76 million in criminal fines were assessed. All criminal, civil, and administrative fines and penalties combined reached $173 million -- the highest in EPA history, says the agency. Civil penalties alone were over $590 million.

This was the first time the agency applied new performance measures designed to reflect the actual impact of enforcement actions on protecting the environment and public health.

Specific to compliance, 43 companies voluntarily disclosed violations at 243 facilities and EPA settled matters with 27 companies at 30 facilities. EPA provides incentives, under its audit policies, to voluntarily detect, disclose, and correct violations.

Workplace assault injuries totaled 3,435 in Calif. during 1995, according to a study by the Southern California Injury Prevention Research Center.

That's 73 previously unrecorded injuries per 100,000 workers. More men (1,983) than women (1,452) reported assault injuries. Women make up 44 percent of the workforce in Calif. and experienced 42 percent of the assault injuries. Police officers, public and school bus drivers, and hospital workers had the highest incidence rates. To compare, hospital workers were 5.64 times more likely than the average Calif. worker to be assaulted, while retail workers suffer assaults at 1.55 times the average.

Nancy Adams began her new job as OSHA's ergonomics coordinator Feb. 10

Adams' career with OSHA began in 1975 at the Albany area office, followed by positions in Washington, Boston, and Long Island. She goes now to Washington from the New York regional office.

Fourteen percent of all lower back injuries reported were recurrent, according to a study of disability claimants conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health and Liberty Mutual Insurance Company.

Males (77 percent) had a higher rate of recurrent injury than females (23 percent), and also 5 percent higher costs, according to the study published in the Jan. '97 issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Mean costs for low back pain claims reached $5,483 for recurrent injuries and $10,503 for non-recurrent injuries. Researchers also found of the 14 percent filing recurrent LBP claims, 81 percent filed two claims, 15 percent filed three, and 4 percent filed more than three in the six-year study period. This is the first large-scale study of U.S. workers concerning demographic and cost differences between recurrent and non-recurrent low back pain.