The rate of workplace injuries and illnesses in private industry declined in 2006 for the fourth consecutive year, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Tuesday. Nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private industry employers dropped from 4.6 cases per 100 workers in 2005 to 4.4 cases in 2006.

Similarly, the number of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses reported in 2006 also declined, from 4.2 million cases in 2005 to 4.1 million cases.

The total recordable case (TRC) injury and illness incidence rate among private industry employers in 2006 was the lowest since BLS conducted its first workplace injuries and illnesses survey in 1972.

The number and incidence rate of injuries both declined significantly in 2006 compared to 2005 — three percent and five percent, respectively.

The rate decline for nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses among private industry employers in 2006 resulted from a two percent increase in the number of hours worked and a three percent decrease in the number of nonfatal injuries and illnesses, according to BLS.

Approximately 2.1 million injuries and illnesses were cases with days away from work, job transfer or restriction. The remaining 2.0 million injuries and illnesses were other recordable cases that did not result in time away from work.

The incidence rate for cases with days away from work, job transfer or restriction was 2.3 cases per 100 workers, and the rate for other recordable cases was 2.1. Both of these rates decreased in 2006 by 0.1 case per 100 equivalent full-time workers compared to 2005.

Among the goods-producing sector of private industry, manufacturing experienced especially significant lower rates of illnesses last year — dropping from 66.1 in 2005 to 57.7 per 10,000 workers in 2006.

“The BLS report — showing the lowest rates since the Labor Department began collecting data in 1972 — confirms that OSHA’s consistent emphasis on prevention is paying off with lower on-the-job injuries and illnesses,” said OSHA chief Edwin G. Foulke Jr. “This report encourages us to continue our balanced strategy of fair and effective enforcement of standards, accident prevention education and cooperative programs with labor and industry.”