Injuries can occur at any workplace—from minor sprains and strains to life-altering amputations—and happen more frequently than you may imagine. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nearly 3 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illness were reported by private industry employers in 2014. Another 722,300 (estimated) employee injuries and illness were reported by state and local government employers.
While illnesses and injuries on the job can happen in any industry, those with the highest percentage are local government transportation and warehousing; local government justice, public order and safety; state government healthcare and social assistance; local government construction; and local government trade, transportation and utilities. Within these industries, between 2.7 and 4 percent of employees suffered an injury or illness in 2014.
Employees in private industries fared better. Most of the industries with the lowest percentage of reported injuries and illness were in the private sector. They include professional, scientific and technical services reporting (with the lowest injury and illness rate of any industry, private or government); management, financing, professional services; and state government educational services. Within these industries only 0.25 to 0.6 percent of employees suffered a reported injury or illness in 2014.
Of course, some injuries and illnesses are more serious than others, requiring employees to spend more time away from the job while they recover. Some industries with average illness and injury rates are still more heavily impacted by these events than those with higher rates because of the recovery time associated with the injuries their employees sustain.
The BLS data show that the top five industries in terms of days away from the workplace are mining (with an average of 31 recovery days per incident); local government transportation and warehousing (21); private sector transportation and warehousing (20); local government trade, transportation and utilities (16); and state government justice, public order and safety (14).
Industries in which reported illnesses and injuries require employees to spend the fewest days away from the workplace while recovering are educational services (5 days on average); accommodation and food services (6); agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (6); education and health services (6); and healthcare and social assistance (6).
The age of employees who suffer workplace illnesses and injuries appears to have an effect on the number of days they need to recover away from the job—regardless of industry. While the data shows injured workers between the ages of 20 and 24 spend an average of 5 days recovering, that number jumps to 6 days for workers between the ages of 25 and 34, and then skyrockets to 10 days for workers who are 35 to 44. Injured employees between the ages of 45 and 54 need an average of 12 days away from their job, while those 65 and older need the most time—17 days on average.
By now you’re probably wondering which workplace injuries and illnesses are most common. The BLS keeps track of that as well. For 2014, their data shows that sprains, strains and tears top the charts, followed by musculoskeletal disorders (including tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome), soreness and pain, bruises and contusions, cuts and lacerations, and fractures.
What events are most likely to cause these injuries and illnesses? Overexertion and bodily reactions are the major contributor, followed by falls, slips and trips; contact with object or equipment; violence and other injuries by person or animal; transportation incidents; exposure to harmful substances and environments; and fires and explosions.
Regardless of your industry, it’s your responsibility to provide your employees with a safe workplace and do what you can to reduce their chances of sustaining a work-related injury or illness. A comprehensive safety program—including regular, consistent jobsite training—is essential, as is a period review to ensure your program is adequately addressing developing issues.