U.S. workplaces again saw a drop in injury rates in 2003, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting 4.4 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses in private industry last year, resulting in a rate of 5.0 cases per 100 full-time workers.

The rate of injuries and illnesses declined from 5.3 cases per 100 full-time workers in 2002.

Recordkeeping changes prevent truly accurate year-to-year comparisons prior to 2002 — still, the total case rate has declined dramatically in the past 30 years, from 11.0 in 1973 to 5.0 in 2003.

BLS attributed the drop from 2002 to 2003 to a 7.1 percent decrease in the number of cases reported and a 0.7 percent decrease in the number of hours worked.

The total case rate in manufacturing industries was 6.8 in 2003. Construction industries also had 6.8 cases per 100 full-time workers.

Nursing and residential care facilities had double the cases of private industry — 10.1 cases per 100 full-time workers.

Small businesses, with 1 to 10 employees, had a rate of 2.0. Businesses with 11 to 49 employees had a rate of 4.3. The case rate jumped to 6.2 in facilities with 50 to 249 workers.

Private industry's lost-time case rate was 2.6 in 2003. For manufacturing it was 3.8, and in construction it was 3.6.