Workplace injury and illness data proves revealing

RP news wires, Noria Corporation
Tags: workplace safety

The rate of workplace injuries and illnesses in private industry that required recuperation away from work declined 4 percent in 2005, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics. There were a total of 1.2 million injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work in 2005, relatively unchanged from 2004. A 2 percent increase in the number of hours worked in 2005 contributed to the decline in the rate.  Median days away from work - a key measure of the severity of the injury or illness - was 7 days for all cases in 2005, as it was in 2004.  

In 2005, there were 135.7 of these injuries and illnesses per 10,000 full-time-equivalent workers in private industry. This rate declined for workers in both the goods-producing and service-providing industries.  Goods-producing industries had 394,090 injuries and illnesses and a rate of 176.9 per 10,000 workers.  There were 840,580 injuries and illnesses and a rate of 122.4 in service-providing industries.

As was the case in previous years, more than 4 out of 10 of injuries and illnesses were sprains or strains, most involving overexertion or falls on the same level. More than a third of the sprains and strains occurred in the trade, transportation and utilities industry. Three occupations — laborers and freight, stock, and material movers; heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers; and nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants — accounted for 20 percent of all sprains and strains. These occupations also had the highest numbers of injuries and illnesses, accounting for 17 percent of the total days-away-from-work cases.  
     
This is the third of three annual releases reporting on 2005 data from the BLS workplace safety and health statistical series. The first release, in August 2006, covered work-related fatalities from the 2005 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. In October 2006, BLS reported that there were 4.2 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses in 2005, based on the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. This final release covers the circumstances of the injuries and illnesses and the characteristics of the workers involved in the 1.2 million of those that required days away from work. Due to improvements in survey processing, these data are available more than 4 months earlier than they were two years ago. 
     
Case characteristics
Case characteristics provide detailed information on the circumstances of non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses involving one or more days away from work. These characteristics include nature, part of body, source, and event (see chart 1). 

What follows are some of the key findings for 2005.
     
* Sprains and strains was the leading nature of injury and illness in every major industry sector. There was a decrease of 4 percent in these injuries from 2004, led by the manufacturing sector, which experienced an 8 percent decline. Sprains and strains declined by 7 percent in goods-producing industries and by 3 percent in service-providing industries. Trade, transportation and utilities reported 172,380 sprains and strains, 34 percent of the total in 2005.

* The incidence rate for carpal tunnel syndrome decreased by nearly 14 percent.

* The part of the body most affected by work incidents was the trunk, including the shoulder and back, which accounted for 35 percent of all cases. Overall injuries to the trunk decreased by 4 percent from 2004.  Of these injuries or illnesses to the trunk, those involving the back accounted for 63 percent.

* Floors, walkways, and ground surfaces accounted for 19 percent of all sources of injury or illness. Worker motion or position accounted for 15 percent.

* Assaults and violent acts (by person), almost two-thirds of which occurred in health care and social assistance, decreased by 18 percent. 

* Injuries and illnesses due to repetitive motion decreased by 10 percent.

* Falls from a ladder increased by almost 10 percent.

In addition to these four case characteristics, BLS collects the time of day and day of the week the injury or illness occurred and the time the employee had spent on the job before the incident. 

* Of the injuries and illnesses with days away from work for which the time of the incident was reported, the four hours from 8:00 a.m. to noon accounted for 36 percent of the cases. The hours from noon to 4:00 P.M. accounted for 28 percent.

* In those cases where employers reported how long the employee had been on the job before the incident occurred, workers on the job from two to four hours incurred 27 percent of injuries and illnesses with days away from work in 2005. Employees on the job for more than eight hours accounted for 12 percent.

* Eighty-seven percent of injuries and illnesses occurred on Monday through Friday.  The exception to this pattern was the leisure and hospitality sector, where 16 percent of injuries and illnesses occurred on Saturday.

Demographic characteristics
Demographic characteristics include gender, age, race or ethnic origin, and length of service with the employer at the time of the incident. 
Following are some key findings for 2005.

* Men accounted for 66 percent of all days-away-from-work cases, which was higher than their employment share (54 percent) and their share of the hours worked (59 percent) among private wage and salary workers.

* The number of assaults and violent acts (by persons) on female workers dropped 24 percent from 2004, the vast majority (80 percent) of which was due to fewer assaults involving health care patients.

* Injuries and illnesses to female workers in the manufacturing industry declined 13 percent, compared to a decrease of 6 percent among their male colleagues.

* Injuries and illnesses to Asian workers fell by 18 percent from 2004.  White workers had a decrease of 4 percent, while injuries to black and Hispanic workers remained virtually unchanged. Race or ethnicity was unreported in 30 percent of days-away-from-work cases, the same as in 2004.

* Workers who were 20 to 44 years old accounted for 60 percent of injured workers, which is consistent with their share of hours worked.  Workers who were 16 to 19 years old or 65 and older had increases in the numbers of injuries and illnesses with days away from work, 9 and 13 percent, respectively. 

* The number of days away from work rose with the age of the worker from a median of three days for workers 14- and 15 years old to a median of 12 days for workers 65 and older.

Occupation  
Transportation and material moving workers suffered the most injuries and illnesses with days away from work (253,570). Three of the detailed occupations with the most injuries and illnesses fell within this major occupational group. Five occupations accounted for 23 percent of the days-away-from-work cases.  

Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers experienced the highest number of days-away-from-work injuries and illnesses in 2005 with an increase of 3 percent to 92,240.  Eighty-four percent of these injuries were suffered by men and 65 percent of the cases were to employees in trade, transportation and utilities. The source of the  injuries was most often containers and the event or exposure leading to the injury was contact with objects or equipment. The median number of days away from work for this occupation was 7, the same as that for all workers.

* Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers had 65,930 cases in 2005, an increase of 4 percent from 2004. Ninety-five percent of these cases were suffered by men, with 71 percent of cases reported in trade, transportation and utilities. The source was most often vehicles, followed by floor or ground surfaces; the most frequent event was  overexertion followed by contact with objects and equipment. The median days away from work was 14 days, twice that for all occupations. 

* Nursing aides, orderlies and attendants — with more injuries and illnesses to women (89 percent) than to men — had 52,150 cases, also about the same as in 2004. Injuries to these workers involved health care patients 58 percent of the time and were due to overexertion for 54 percent of the cases. The median number of days away from work for this occupation was five days.

* Construction laborers had the fourth highest number of cases with 39,270. More than 97 percent of these injuries and illnesses were suffered by men. Contact with objects or equipment was the most common event in this occupation and the most frequent source of injury was parts and materials. The median number of days away from work for construction laborers was eight days.

* Light and delivery services truck drivers had 32,740 incidents, mostly in the trade, transportation and utilities sector. Men accounted for 90 percent of the cases. Vehicles and containers were the most frequent sources of injury for these drivers. Overexertion was the leading event or exposure. The median number of days away from work was 10 days.

* Eleven detailed occupations, including the five discussed above, each had more than 20,000 injuries and illnesses with days away from work and together accounted for 36 percent of all cases. These same eleven occupations have had more than 20,000 cases in each of the last three years.   

* In food and beverage serving occupations, male workers experienced a 20 percent increase in the number of injuries and illnesses while female workers experienced a 15 percent decrease.

* In the construction and extraction occupations, the number of injuries and illnesses to Hispanics workers rose 21 percent to 32,040.

Industry
Goods-producing industries accounted for 21 percent of private industry employment and had a rate for days away from work of 176.9 per 10,000 workers, a increase of 4.9 percent from 2004. Contact with objects and equipment — such as being struck by an object — was the leading cause of these injuries and illnesses.
 
Natural resources and mining was the industry sector with the highest median number of days away from work with 10 days. In this sector, the mining industry had a median of 22 days. Natural resources and mining had an incidence rate of 184.5 per 10,000 workers. The rate of 23.7 for fractures was more than twice the rate of fractures in all private industry. Hispanic workers experienced 54 percent of injuries and illnesses in agriculture, forestry, and fishing, compared to 13 percent of all days–away-from-work cases in private industry.  
     
Construction had the highest incidence rate, 239.5 per 10,000 workers, of all major industry sectors but had the fourth highest case count.  Men accounted for 98 percent of these injuries. The construction industry’s rate of 84.8 for contact with objects was more than twice the rate for total private industry. The rate of injuries and illnesses
with parts and materials as the source (56.0) was nearly four times higher than the total private sector rate of 14.1. Cases in the construction industry had a median of nine days away from work.
     
Manufacturing had a 17 percent share of injuries and illnesses, which was slightly higher than its 13 percent employment share, resulting in a rate of 147.1 per 10,000 workers. The incidence rate for repetitive motion cases (10.7) was the highest in any industry sector and twice the rate for total private industry. Injuries and illnesses to white
workers totaled 108,640 cases, down 13 percent from 2004, compared to an overall decrease in manufacturing of 8 percent.  The median number of days away from work was seven days, as it was for all days-away-from-work cases. 
    
Musculoskeletal disorders
The U.S. Department of Labor defines a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) as an injury or disorder of the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage, or spinal discs. MSDs do not include disorders caused by slips, trips, falls, motor vehicle accidents, or similar accidents. In 2005, MSDs accounted for 375,540 cases, or 30 percent of the injuries and illnesses with days away from work — below the consistent pattern of MSDs accounting for about a third of all injuries and illnesses in previous years. 

Service-providing industries reported the most musculoskeletal disorders, accounting for 71 percent of all cases of this type. Within these industries, the trade, transportation and utilities sector reported 125,430 MSDs, 33 percent of all MSD cases. The educational and health services industry sector reported the next highest MSD count with 75,350 cases, or 20 percent of all MSD cases, the vast majority of these in health care and social assistance (72,780). Goods-producing industries reported 29 percent of all MSD cases, led by manufacturing, which had 69,130 cases, 18 percent of the total MSD injuries and illnesses.  MSD cases in manufacturing decreased by 12 percent from
2004 to 2005, while MSD cases for all private industry decreased by 7 percent.
     
Severity of Injuries and Illnesses
In addition to providing data on the number of injuries and illnesses that require days away from work to recuperate, the survey also focuses on the length of the absences resulting from those injuries and illnesses. Median days away from work — the key survey measure of severity — designates the point at which half the cases involved more days and half involved fewer days.

The median number of days away from work for all cases was seven days in 2005, unchanged from 2004. Almost one-fourth of all days-away-from-work cases resulted in 31 days or more away from work.  The median days away from work for goods-producing industries was eight days, down from nine in 2004, led by 10 days for the natural
resources and mining industry sector. The median number of days away from work for service-providing industries was seven.

* Among the leading natures of injuries and illnesses that result in days away from work, median days away from work were highest for carpal tunnel syndrome and fractures, at 27 days, both down from 28 days in 2004. Amputations were next with 22 median days away from work, down from 25 days in 2004. 

* Repetitive motion — such as grasping tools, scanning groceries, and typing — was the event that resulted in the longest absences from work among the leading events or exposures in 2005. Repetitive motion had a median of 19 days away from work, down from 20 days in 2004.  Fires and explosions resulted in the next longest absences from work, with a median of 16 days, more than twice the 2004 median of seven days. Falls to lower level had a median of 13 days, a decrease from the 14 days in 2004.

* Among those detailed occupations with the highest number of days-away-from-work cases, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers had the highest median days away from work with 14 days. First-line supervisors and managers of retail sales workers had the second-highest median with 13 days, an increase of seven days from 2004, followed by light or delivery truck drivers with a median of 10 days. 

* Injuries to the shoulder resulted in the longest absences from work (a median of 15 days), followed by injuries to the wrist (a median of 14 days), and injuries to the knee (a median of 12 days).


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