2012 Workplace Injury Rate Continues Downward Trend


By Roy Maurer November 15, 2013

Workplace injuries and illnesses in 2012 continued a decade-long decline, but private-industry employers still experienced nearly 3 million nonfatal incidents, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Private industry’s workplace injuries and illnesses incidence rate dropped from 5.0 cases per 100 full-time workers in 2003 to 3.4 cases in 2012, according to the agency’s annual Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, released Nov. 7, 2013.

The 2012 rate is down about 1 percent from 2011.

“The rate reported for 2012 continues the pattern of statistically significant declines that, with the exception of 2011, occurred annually for the last decade,” the bureau said.

Work-related fatalities are on the decline, as well, BLS data released in August 2013 reveals.

Among the findings of the injury and illness survey:

  • No private-industry sector experienced an increase in the rate of injuries and illnesses in 2012.
  • The days away, restricted and transfer (DART) rate was unchanged last year, as a decline in the rate of cases involving days away from work was offset by the rate for cases involving job transfer or restriction only, which was unchanged.
  • Manufacturing was the only private-industry sector in 2012 in which the rate of job-transfer or restriction-only cases exceeded the rate of cases with days away from work, continuing a 15-year trend.
  • The injury/illness rate for the construction industry declined from 3.9 per 100 full-time workers in 2011to 3.7 last year. Construction’s injury/illness rate has fallen annually since at least 2007, when the industry’s rate was 5.4, according to BLS data.
  • The incidence rate of injuries only among private-industry workers dropped to 3.2 cases per 100 full-time workers in 2012, down from 3.3 cases in 2011.
  • The incidence rate of illness cases was statistically unchanged in 2012.
  • The injury/illness incidence rate was highest among midsize companies (employing between 50 and 249 workers) and lowest among small establishments (employing fewer than 11 workers).
  • More than 2.8 million (94.8 percent) of the nearly 3 million nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses in 2012 were injuries. Among injuries, 2.1 million (75.2 percent) occurred in service-providing industries, which employed 82.4 percent of the private-industry workforce. The remaining 0.7 million injuries (24.8 percent) occurred in goods-producing industries, which accounted for 17.6 percent of private-industry employment in 2012.
  • Workplace illnesses accounted for 5.2 percent of the nearly 3 million injury and illness cases in 2012. The rate of workplace illnesses in 2012 (17.5 cases per 10,000 full-time workers) was not statistically different from the 2011 rate (18 cases).

Public-Sector Estimates

The BLS reported 792,700 injury and illness cases in 2012 among approximately 18.2 million state and local government workers, resulting in a rate of 5.6 cases per 100 full-time workers. The rate among these workers was statistically unchanged from 2011 but was higher than the rate among private-sector workers. Nearly 80 percent of injuries and illnesses reported in the public sector occurred among local government workers in 2012, resulting in an injury and illness rate of 6.1 cases per 100 full-time workers, significantly higher than the 4.4 cases per 100 full-time workers in state government.

New Record-keeping Obligation

Despite the nation’s injury and illness incidence rate trending in a positive direction, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels expressed dismay with the private sector’s 3 million incidents. “Three million injuries are three million too many,” he said as he announced a proposed rule requiring employers currently required to keep injury and illness records to electronically file those records with the government every quarter.

“With the changes being proposed in this rule, employers, employees, the government and researchers will have better access to data that will encourage earlier abatement of hazards and result in improved programs to reduce workplace hazards and prevent injuries, illnesses and fatalities,” Michaels said.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him on Twitter @SHRMRoy.​​


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