2013 Workplace Injury Rate Continues Slide

By Roy Maurer Dec 4, 2014

Slightly more than three million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported by private-sector employers in 2013, continuing a decline in the occupational injury and illness incidence rate.

The rate reported for 2013—3.3 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers—continues a downward trend that, with the exception of 2012, occurred annually for the last 11 years, according to estimates from the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII) conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The private-sector workplace injuries and illnesses incidence rate dropped from five cases per 100 full-time workers in 2003 to 3.4 cases in 2012, according to the survey, released Dec. 4, 2014. The 2013 rate is down about another three percent from 2012.

“We are encouraged that the rates continue to decline over the past few years, even during this period of healthy economic growth when we would expect the rate of injuries to rise,” said David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “The decrease in the injury rate is a product of tireless work by those employers, unions, worker advocates and occupational safety and health professionals all coupled with the efforts of federal and state government organizations that make worker safety and health a high priority each and every day.”

But we cannot ignore those three million workers, Michaels added. “The severity of their injuries and illnesses varies widely—some are amputees, some suffer back injuries, while others have to struggle for each breath. This is why the work of the Labor Department is so vital, and why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, along with our partners in both the public and private sector, will maintain our commitment to ensuring that everyone can work in a safe, healthy place.”

Work-related fatalities are also on the decline, as BLS data released in September 2014 revealed.

Among the findings of the injury and illness survey:

  • The rate for cases involving days away from work, restriction or job transfer—commonly referred to as DART—declined in 2013 from 2012, marking the first decline in the DART rate since 2009.
  • The rate of reported injuries and illnesses declined significantly among the manufacturing, retail trade, and utilities sectors but was statistically unchanged among all other private industry sectors compared to 2012.
  • The injury and illness incidence rate remained highest in 2013 among mid-size employers (employing between 50 and 249 workers) and lowest among small establishments (employing fewer than 11 workers.)
  • Manufacturing continued a 16-year trend in 2013 as the only private-industry sector in which the rate of job transfer or restriction-only cases exceeded the rate of cases with days away from work.
  • The injury-only rate among private-industry workers declined to 3.1 cases per 100 full-time workers in 2013, down from 3.2 cases in 2012. In comparison, the illness rate was statistically unchanged from 2012.
  • Nearly 2.9 million (94.9 percent) of the nearly three million occupational injuries and illnesses in 2013 were injuries. Workplace illnesses accounted for the remaining 5.1 percent of cases.
  • The rate of injuries and illnesses among state and local government workers combined declined to 5.2 cases per 100 full-time workers in 2013 compared to 5.6 cases in 2012 and remains significantly higher than the private-industry rate.

New Recordkeeping Obligations

Beginning Jan. 1, 2015, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reporting requirements will change. Employers will be responsible for reporting all fatal work injuries within eight hours, and all in-patient hospitalizations, amputations or losses of an eye within 24 hours. The agency has also updated the list of industries required to keep injury and illness records.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy


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