And now, a bit of good news for the holiday season: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) annual Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, 2013 continued a downward trend in the number of workplace injuries. Employers reported about three million nonfatal injuries and illnesses, which resulted in an incidence rate of 3.3 cases per 100 full-time workers – down from 3.4 in 2012.
Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), noted the decline is particularly encouraging, given that as the economy has rebounded, “we would expect the rate of injuries to rise.” In an issued statement, he attributed the decrease to the work of unions, employers and occupational safety organizations.
Interesting data points from the recently released report include:
- The reduced rate is primarily due to fewer serious injuries and illnesses – which result in days away from work, a job transfer or job restriction. This number declined for the first time since 2009. But serious cases still make up over half of the total injuries and illnesses reported by private industry in 2013.
- Injuries and illnesses in the manufacturing, retail trade, and utilities industries declined significantly.
- The rate of injuries and illnesses among all state and local government workers declined to 5.2 cases per 100 full-time workers – compared to 5.6 cases in 2012 – but remains significantly higher than the private industry rate.
In September, the BLS released similarly encouraging numbers for 2013 workplace fatalities. According to preliminary results from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries:
- 4,405 fatal work injuries were recorded in 2013, lower than the revised count of 4,628 for 2012.
- Fatal work injuries in private industry fell to the lowest number since 1992, when the census began. Fatalities among self-employed workers were also the lowest on record.
- Fatal work injuries involving workers under 16 years of age were substantially lower, falling from 19 in 2012 to 5 in 2013—the lowest total ever reported by the census.
But the report also demonstrated disappointing challenges, including the highest number of workplace-related deaths among Hispanic and Latino workers since 2008, and an increase in fatalities among workers ages 25 to 34.
Starting in 2015, these reports could reveal new insights into workplace safety. Under new OSHA requirements, employers must report all in-patient hospitalizations, amputations and eye losses within 24 hours. Currently, employers are only required to report workplace fatalities and incidents involving the hospitalization of three or more employees.