Safety and OSHA News

Serious injuries down, but workers stay out longer

Federal government figures show employees suffered fewer serious injuries in the workplace in 2012 compared to 2011, but they stayed out of work longer because of these injuries.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says the rate of nonfatal occupational injury and illness cases requiring days away from work (DAFW) to recuperate was 112 per 10,000 full-time workers in 2012, down from 117 in 2011. That’s a 2% decrease in cases.

However, the median days away from work was 9 days, up from 8 days in 2011.

The upshot: fewer injuries, but more serious ones, on average.

Musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) cases, also known as ergonomic injuries, account for 34% (one out of three) of all injuries. That’s statistically unchanged from the previous year. Once again, the median DAFW because of ergonomic injuries increased by one day to 12 days.

Laborer and freight, stock and material movers had the highest number of MSD cases at a rate of 164 per 10,000 workers, up from 140 in 2011.

What causes these injuries?

Overexertion is the leading cause of DAFW injuries for 63% of cases. That’s followed by slips, trips and falls (23%). No other category accounted for more than 5%.

Sprains, strains and tears was the leading type of injury, accounting for 38% of the total. Shoulder injuries make up 13%, and knee problems total 12%.

Workers 65 and older had the lowest incident rate in 2012 at 89 cases per 10,000 workers, but this group required the longest time away from work to recover at a median of 14 days. Workers 45 to 54 had the highest case rate.

Injuries to workers with fewer than 11 months of service accounted for 30% of all cases. Injuries to the newest workers increased 8%.

Some other statistics from the BLS report:

  • Four occupational groups had increases in their DAFW rates from 2012 to 2011: personal care; computer and mathematical; community and social service; and transportation and material moving.
  • Transportation and material moving had the highest incidence rate at 258 per 10,000, up from 251 in 2011.
  • The total number of violence cases increased 6% from 2011 to 2012.
  • Seven occupations had rates greater than 375 cases per 10,000 workers: transit and intercity bus drivers; police and sheriff’s patrol officers; correctional officers and jailers; firefighters; nursing assistants; laborers and freight, stock and material movers; emergency medical technicians and paramedics.
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