In contrast to the steady and continuing drop in the nation's overall workplace injury and illness rate (eight straight years of declines, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics), the rate of the most serious injuries and illnesses, those that result in time away from work or restricted work activities (known as lost-workday cases), did not change between 1999 and 2000.

The unchanged pace of lost-workday cases last year reflects the rate's long-term resistance to improvement. Since 1973 the lost-workday injury and illness rate has been reduced by only 12 percent.

Union safety officials claim that the intensity of work, including increasing workloads and overtime, are major causes of lost-workday cases. They argue that employers are demanding faster work over longer hours, compromising safety and causing serious and disabling injuries.