The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses was full of good news. Despite the fact that private American companies reported nearly 3 million non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses, the incidence rate declined with 3.2 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers in 2014. The rate reported for 2014 continues a pattern of declines that, with the exception of 2012, occurred annually for the last 12 years.
Among Total Reportable Cases, No Category Increased
Over half of the nearly 3.0 million private industry injury and illness cases reported in 2014 involved days away from work, job transfer, or restriction (DART cases). These cases occurred at a rate of 1.7 cases per 100 full-time workers, unchanged from 2013. The rates for the two components of DART cases—DAFW cases and DJTR cases—were also unchanged at 1.0 case and 0.7 cases per 100 workers, respectively. Other recordable cases—those not involving days away from work or days of job transfer or restriction—accounted for the remaining nearly 1.4 million injury and illness cases in 2014, lowering the rate by 0.1 cases to 1.5 cases per 100 full-time workers.
Most Injuries Occurred in Service-Providing Industries
Of the nearly 3.0 million nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses in 2014, 2.8 million (95.1 percent) were injuries. Among injuries, nearly 2.1 million (75.0 percent) occurred in service- providing industries, which employed 82.4 percent of the private industry workforce. The remaining nearly 0.7 million injuries (25.0 percent) occurred in goods-producing industries, which accounted for 17.6 percent of private industry employment.
The Incidence Rate for Occupational Illnesses was Highest in Manufacturing
Workplace illnesses accounted for 4.9 percent of the nearly 3.0 million injury and illness cases in 2014 and occurred at a rate of 15.3 cases per 10,000 full-time workers, down 1.3 cases from 2013. Among individual illness categories, only the rate of reported skin diseases declined in 2014, tallying 0.5 cases to 2.3 cases per 10,000 full-time workers. Rates among the other individual illness categories were relatively unchanged compared to a year earlier.
Goods-producing industries accounted for 35.6 percent of all occupational illness cases in 2014, resulting in an incidence rate of 26.0 cases per 10,000 full-time workers—down 1.6 cases. Service- providing industries accounted for 64.4 percent of private industry illness cases and experienced a rate of 12.5 cases per 10,000 full-time workers in 2014—down 1.2 cases.
Additional Information is Available
If you’re interested in reading the entire BLS report, complete with 28-pages of charts and graphs, you can download it in PDF form at www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/osh.pdf . Before you do, consider the following simple steps you can take to reduce your own company’s incidence of workplace injury and illness regardless of your industry.
- Involve your employees in safety program planning – No one knows more about potential dangers in your workplace than the employees who spend a significant portion of each week on your factory floor, at your jobsite, or in your office space. Solicit their suggestions and gather their feedback on proposed measures before implementing any safety program.
- Encourage your employees to bring safety concerns to management’s attention – Create an environment in which your workers will feel comfortable voicing concerns about safety deficiencies, observed violations, and unreported accidents. It’s cheaper to fix safety problems than to ignore them, but you may need to gain your employees’ trust first.
- Provide your employees with clear work instructions – Deliver all safety training verbally, visually (with a demonstration), and in written form. Employees may have different learning styles, so covering all the bases will ensure everyone understands what is expected. Make sure you have each employee read and sign a document acknowledging this as well.
- Revisit your safety program at least once a year – Change is constant in most workplaces, whether you work in an office or on a construction site. For example, you may hire new staff, replace equipment or add new processes. Each alteration has the potential to render your safety guidelines obsolete, so review and modify them regularly. If you’re unsure how to adjust your program to your company’s changing needs, consult a workplace safety professional.