U.S. industry's record-breaking safety and health performance - in terms of reported injuries and illnesses - continued for a second-straight year in 1997, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS released its annual survey report last December.

The injury and illness incidence rate for private industry dipped to 7.1 recordable cases per 100 full-time workers, down from 7.4 in 1996. The '96 rate was the lowest recorded by BLS since the bureau started surveying industry in the early 1970s, and now the '97 rate has set a new standard.

In the 1990s, workplace injury and illness rates have declined every year except in 1992. Over the five-year period from 1993 to 1997 rates have declined 16.5 percent.

Labor Secretary Alexis M. Herman pointed out that while employment numbers continue to go up, injury and illness rates continue to come down. "Business, industry and unions all share in the credit," Herman said.

In total numbers, 6.1 million injuries and illnesses were reported by private industry in 1997, down from 6.2 million in 1996. A three-percent increase in number of hours worked contributed to the reduction of the incidence rate from 7.4 to 7.1.

Industry profiles

Among goods-producing industries, manufacturing reported the highest incidence rate (10.3 per 100 full-time workers) followed by construction (9.5), and agricultural production (9.1), according to the report. The goods producing sector includes agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, construction, and manufacturing.

In the service sector, transportation and public utilities registered the highest rate (8.2 cases per 100 full-time employees) followed by wholesale and retail trade (6.7). The service-producing sector consists of transportation and public utilities, trade, finance, insurance, and real estates and services.

Lost workdays

The incidence rate for lost-workday cases has steadily declined from 4.1 in 1990 to 3.3 in 1997. In 1997, 2.9 million injuries and illnesses involved days away from work, restricted duties at work, or both. The incidence rate of cases requiring days away from work has steadily dropped from 3.4 in 1990 to 2.1 in 1997.

Restricted activity

Cases involving restricted activity at work have increased from 0.7 per 100 workers in 1990 to 1.2 in 1997. Restricted activity includes shortened hours; a temporary job change; or temporary restrictions on certain job duties in a worker's regular job, such as no heavy lifting, according to BLS. In manufacturing, the rate of restricted-activity-only cases was the same as days-away-from- work cases (2.4 per 100 full-time workers). In all other reporting divisions, the rate for restricted-work-only cases was lower than the rate for days-away-from-work cases.


Of the 6.1 million reported nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 1997, 5.7 million were injuries that resulted in either medical treatment beyond first aid, lost work time, loss of consciousness, restricted work or worker movements, or a transfer to another job, according to BLS.

Injury rates are generally higher for mid-size establishments (50 to 249 workers) than for smaller or larger companies. Of the 5.7 million injuries, 30 percent occurred in nine industries, eight of which were in the service producing sector.


Three-fifths of the 430,000 newly reported illness cases were in manufacturing industries. The dominant type of illnesses reported were carpal tunnel syndrome or noise-induced hearing loss, accounting for 64 percent of the 430,000 cases. Seventy-two percent of the repeated trauma injuries were in the manufacturing sector.

By Shahla Siddiqi, Managing Editor