Safety and OSHA News

Nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses drop by 45K year to year

Is the glass half empty or half full? The number of workplace nonfatal injuries and illnesses fell from 2016 to 2017 – but not by much. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported by private industry employers in 2017 which is nearly 45,800 fewer compared to 2016. That’s a drop of 1.64 percent.

These injuries occurred at the rate of 2.8 cases per 100 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers in 2017, a slight drop from 2.9 in 2016. The rate has decreased every year since 2012 when it was 3.4. In 2003 the rate was 5.0.

Some highlights from the report:

  • The rates for days away from work (DAFW), days of job transfer or restriction (DJTR) and other recordable cases (ORC) were unchanged from a year earlier.
  • The DJTR case rate has stayed at 0.7 per 100 FTE workers since 2011.
  • Nearly one-third of nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses resulted in days away from work.
  • Of 19 industry sectors, only 2 – manufacturing and finance/insurance – experienced statistically significant changes in their over all rates of nonfatal injuries in 2017 – both declined 0.1 cases per 100 FTE workers compared to 2016.
  • The median days away from work in manufacturing was eight, one day fewer than in 2016.
  • Four occupation groups in manufacturing accounted for 67% of the DAFW cases in 2017: metal and plastic workers; material moving workers; assemblers and fabricators; and other production workers.
  • The number of DAFW cases in manufacturing where the event or exposure was overexertion and bodily reaction fell from 2016 to 2017. The rate decreased from 32.7 cases from 34.1 cases per 10,000 FTE workers.
  • Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) accounted for 34% of the DAFW cases in manufacturing.
  • Sprains, strains and tears was the leading type of injury in manufacturing.
  • In hospitals, the 51,380 DAFW cases in 2017 resulted in an incidence rate of 129.8 cases per 10,000 FTE workers, down from 134.3 in 2016.

In December, BLS will provide a count of all fatal work injuries in the U.S. during 2017 compared to 2016.

Is the slight decrease in nonfatal injuries and illnesses something to celebrate? Or is it not enough? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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Comments

  1. That’s the paradox of being a safety professional, that you really can’t celebrate while people are still getting injured and killed on the job. I did a presentation a few years ago where I talked about a fatality at my jobsite in 2008, involving a fall from a scaffold. When you look at the BLS data for 2008 you see a significant drop in workplace fatalities from 2007. In fact, there were 147 less fatalities from falls in 2008 compared to 2007. If our coworker hadn’t fallen that number would have been 148 less, which would not have made any real impact on the percentage, or people’s impression of it. 147 sounds like a victory but in reality there were still 700 people killed in falls that year. If we could have prevented 1 more then that number would have been 699 and this family would still have their mother.
    I know we’re talking about injuries here and not fatalities but I feel the same way regardless.

  2. D. Combs, MS, CSP, CFI, CFPS, CPSI says:

    Celebrating may not be the correct word but, it is good news. Any reduction in I&I is a win for safer workplaces and while the numbers may be small – its a positive trend. The American workplace has never been safer so we’re not going to see significant reductions like we did through the 70s, 80s and 90s. With some exceptions, most workplaces have become more aware, knowledgeable and amenable to working safely. We’ve equipped our workers and provided them with the proper training but, the one thing that safety professionals cannot routinely control is the human element. It changes often and worker behaviors – with their own thoughts, moods and risk adversities – can vary from week to week, day to day, or task to task. Because of that, we’ll eventually get to a point where the fatality and I&I numbers don’t change much regardless of the new standards written or equipment developed.

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