U.S. Workplace Injury and Illness Data – Good News for Workers?


Each year the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics conducts a study on employer-reported injuries and illnesses. The results from the 2012 study have recently been released, and at first glance the numbers seem to be good news for American workers.

According to the report there were nearly 3 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported in 2012 by the private sector. These injuries resulted in an overall incidence rate of 3.4 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers. This is a decline over the 3.5 equivalent cases that were reported in 2011.

Employers in the U.S. have seen a reduction in this incident rate every year for the last decade, with the rate being 5.0 cases per 100 workers in 2003.

It is also worth noting that no private industry sector experienced an increase in their rate of injuries for 2012 compared to 2011.

Which States Fared Best

Maine has the distinction of having the highest total recordable case (TRC) rate with 5.6 cases per 100 workers while Louisiana reported the lowest rate with just 2.3 TRC rate. States in the Southeast continued to have a lower than average TRC rate compared to the Northern and Northeastern states.

Public Workers Fared Less Well

While the news for private industry as a whole seemed to be good, the news for public workers (state and local government) and certain industries was not as good. The average rate of injuries and illnesses among public workers had no significant change over 2011 and, at 5.6 cases per 100 workers, is significantly higher than their private-industry counterparts.


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Employer Reported Workplace Injuries and Illnesses, 2008-2012 (Click chart to enlarge)

The report also found that private employers with 50-249 employees showed no reduction in their incident rate over the previous year, and had a much higher average incident rate of 4.2 compared to the 3.4 of the entire group.

In many states public workers are not under the regulations and requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or their state equivalent, but more and more states are starting to look at whether bringing public workers into the jurisdiction of OSHA would help to improve injury prevention efforts. The Willis risk control team works closely with many clients in the public sector help evaluate potential risks and design risk mitigation programs that help to reduce employee accidents.

Health Care Industry Continues to Struggle

The health care industry continues to struggle with its TRC rate compared to other industries that many have long been considered to be “high hazard.” Private hospital staff and nursing/residential care facility workers had TRC rates of 6.6 and 7.6 respectively. These numbers continue to be high when compared to others such as:

  • construction workers (3.7)
  • manufacturing plants (4.3)
  • oil and gas workers (1.5)

Many may find the recordable incident rates for private healthcare workers surprising, but state health care workers in the same fields have a TRC rate of 9.2 for hospitals and 13.6 for nursing/residential care.

Patient handling continues to be a struggle for many in the healthcare field and is expected to get worse as the baby boomer generation continues to age and their need for medical care increases. Many healthcare workers struggle with how to safely transfer a growing population of obese and less ambulatory patients while not being injured or injuring the patient.

The risk control consultants at Willis help many of our healthcare clients investigate new technologies and safe patient handling protocols that not only reduce healthcare workers injuries, but also improve patient safety.

While 2012 BLS report shows a continuation of the decade long downward trend for employer-reported workplace injuries and illnesses, the report also shows us that small businesses, public workers and certain industries still have a lot of work to do in 2013.

About David Barry

David Barry is the national technical director for Casualty Risk Control, where he provides risk control consulting…
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