From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Chao Responds to Steady Workplace Injury Rates

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its annual report on Lost-worktime Injuries and Illnesses for the year 2000. On Wednesday, April 10, 2002, the BLS stated that the most recent data available shows that a total of 1.7 million injuries and illnesses in private industry required recuperation away from work beyond the day of the incident in 2000. The number of these cases in 2000 was about the same as in 1999.

Truck drivers have experienced the most injuries and illnesses with time away from work since 1993.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao released the following statement about the 2000 Lost Work Day Injury and Illness data released by the BLS:

“Today’s announcement is more good news for workers, their families and their employers. The number of workers with injuries and illnesses requiring time away from work edged down, continuing the steady drop since 1992 when the Bureau of Labor Statistics first started collecting this data.

“But the good news is tempered by the fact that truck drivers, laborers, nursing aides and other hard working employees continue to suffer high rates of injuries and illnesses on the job. Their safety and health is important to all of us, and we must continue to find ways to reduce hazards and improve their working conditions.

“More work is needed in reducing falls, assaults on health care workers and injuries resulting from repetitive motion. While the number of workers suffering musculoskeletal disorders has continued to drop, we are determined to accelerate that decline and reduce both the number and the rate of these often painful and disabling disorders.

“OSHA’s new four-point ergonomics plan, announced last week, will reduce ergonomic injuries in the shortest possible timeframe. The plan – guidelines, strong enforcement, new research, and compliance assistance – will successfully reduce injuries and illnesses in workplaces across America.”

The report also states that, as in the preceding six years, more than 4 out of 10 injuries and illnesses resulting in time away from work in 2000 were sprains or strains, most often involving the back. Also, from 1999 to 2000, the number of lost worktime cases due to fractures and to back pain increased. The increase to back pain cases came after an almost 32 percent decrease from 1994 to 1998.

The report also notes:

  • Almost 6 out of 10 workers had at least a year of service with their employer when they sustained their injury or illness. Indeed, almost a fourth had over five years of service, suggesting that many experienced workers incur lost worktime injuries.
  • Over 577,800 musculoskeletal disorders were reported, accounting for more than one out of three of the injuries and illnesses involving recuperation away from work. Although both total injuries and illnesses with days away from work and MSDs have decreased since 1992, MSDs continue to account for more than one in three of the total lost worktime cases (table E).
  • About 26 percent of musculoskeletal disorders occurred in the services industries, followed by manufacturing industries with 24 percent and retail trade with 15 percent.
  • Three occupations – truck drivers; nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants; and laborers, nonconstruction – together accounted for one out of five musculoskeletal disorders.
  • Among major disabling injuries and illnesses, median days away from work were highest for carpal tunnel syndrome (27 days), fractures (20 days), and amputations (18 days).
  • Repetitive motion, such as grasping tools, scanning groceries, and typing, resulted in the longest absences from work among the leading events and exposures – a median of 19 days. The median days for this event had steadily declined from a high of 20 days in 1992 to a low of 15 days in 1998 before increasing to 17 days in 1999.
  • Not only do truck drivers suffer the most nonfatal injuries and illnesses, they had the highest median days away from work – 9 days. Electricians also had a median of 9 days, followed by construction laborers; carpenters; plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters; and public transportation attendants (each with 8 days).

  • Injuries to the wrist resulted in the longest absences from work – a median of 12 days. Injuries to the knee and shoulder had the next longest absences from work – a median of 10 days each.