Safety – one of the keys to becoming a productive and reliable plant - continues to improve at American workplaces.

Data collected and analyzed by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics shows 1.316 million lost-worktime injuries and illnesses occurred in private industry during the most recent study period. The report, released this spring, covers all work-related cases that took place between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2003.

While the case total is sizeable, it is a healthy improvement over the previous year’s data (2002), which listed 1.436 million lost-worktime cases. Just nine years ago, the BLS report chronicled 2.237 million injury and illness cases.

Manufacturing is one of 10 overall industries profiled in the BLS data.

With 225,800 lost-worktime injuries and illnesses reported in 2003, manufacturing accounted for 17.2 percent of all private industry cases. The overarching service industry category “trade, transportation and utilities” was the only private industry with more cases (405,300; 30.8 percent of all cases). Education and health services was third with 199,770 cases (15.2 percent).

Industry-specific data from this report cannot be compared with past reports because the U.S. government changed its method of classifying industries and occupations. It now uses the North American Industry Classification System and the Standard Occupational Classification manual instead of the Standard Industrial Classification system and the Bureau of the Census occupational coding system.

Suffice it to say, though, that progress occurred in the manufacturing sector. Using the somewhat broader SIC system in 2002, manufacturing cases totaled 280,000. Improvements are important because healthy workers are more productive. Also, time off for injured or ill workers can be lengthy (and, of course, costly). For manufacturing, 27.4 percent of all cases in 2003 required the injured or ill worker to miss 31 or more days of work; 46.5 percent of cases kept the worker out for at least 11 days. The average time away from work was nine days.

More than a third of all manufacturing-related cases (a total of 82,160) were classified as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). These injuries, on average, led to a 13-day absence. The BLS defines MSDs as an injury or disorder of the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage or spinal discs.

Other telling manufacturing statistics from the lost-worktime report include:

  • The worker most frequently reported injured or ill in 2003 was a white (54.4 percent) male (75.8) age 35 to 44 (29.2) with less than five years of service with the employer (56.5).
  • An injury or illness most frequently occurred on Monday (20.2 percent) between 8:01 a.m. and noon (26.9). The worker had been on the job that day between two and four hours (21.1).
  • Workers with less than one year of service incurred 23.7 percent of the injuries and illnesses.
  • The “production” occupation group accounted for 139,850 total cases while the “installation, repair and maintenance” group had 15,560.

View the full report by visiting the Bureau of Labor Statistics Web site at www.bls.gov.

Breaking Down Manufacturing’s Lost-worktime Cases
By nature of injury or illness (top 10)
Sprains, strains 84,210
Bruises, contusions 18,900
Cuts, lacerations 18,810
Fractures 16,590
Carpal tunnel syndrome 7,910
Multiple traumatic injuries 7,430
Heat burns 3,870
Amputations 3,750
Tendonitis 2,580
Chemical burns 2,130
By part of body affected
Trunk 76,860
Back 44,190
Shoulder 16,010
Upper extremities 71,020
Finger 29,180
Wrist 15,860
Hand (except finger) 10,430
Lower extremities 39,070
Knee 14,850
Foot (except toe) 7,060
Toe 1,860
Head 16,280
Eye 10,270
Multiple parts 15,630
Neck 2,730
Body systems 2,310
By event or exposure leading to the case
Contact with objects/equipment 74,840
Struck by object 29,620
Caught in equipment or object 21,720
Struck against object 16,900
Overexertion 54,780
Overexertion in lifting 27,940
Repetitive motion 21,060
Fall on same level 20,490
Exposure to harmful substances 10,970
Fall to lower level 8,550
Slip, trip, loss of balance without fall 6,070
Transportation accidents 4,730
Fires and explosions 570
Assaults/violent acts by person 30
By source of injury or illness
Worker motion or position 44,670
Parts and materials 38,130
Containers 27,830
Floors, walkways and ground surfaces 27,270
Machinery 26,860
Tools, instruments and equipment 14,660
Vehicles 11,180
Chemicals and chemical products 4,730
Furniture and fixtures 5,730