From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Research: Changes In US Industry Employment Offers Some Benefits

Employment shifts away from more hazardous industries may be contributing significantly to the gradual decline occupational injury/illness rates since the late 1980s, according to a recent state of Connecticut study using figures from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  Nearly 20 percent of the Connecticut injury/illness rate reduction from 1976-2000 was attributable to demographic employment changes to less dangerous professions/job activities – service sector growth and manufacturing sector losses.  

The Bottom Line – How This Applies To Ergonomists

In a quantitative manner, this study shows that demographic employment shifts to safer jobs have strongly assisted in lowering injury/illness rates. 

A similar analysis method should be applied to determine the contribution of other prevention efforts — such as enforcement activities by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), company ergonomics agendas, and worker/union/company joint safety plans — to the remaining portion (80 percent) of the rate reduction.  Some analysts point out that reporting artifacts, such as underreporting due to corporate pressure and changes in recordkeeping requirements, have also been major contributors to this trend – a charge that should also be assessed.

Other Key Points

When analyzing an overall injury/illness rate pattern, it is important to consider the temporal impact of work hazards and employment patterns.

The US BLS figures for injury rate (not including illnesses) has decreased 39 percent from 1976 to 2001: from 8.9 per 100 full-time equivalent workers to 5.4 per 100 full-time equivalent workers.  More recent rates are calculated differently and would not be valid to include comparatively.


This paper can be assessed at:

Article Title: Are Employment Shifts Into Non-Manufacturing Industries Partially Responsible for the Decline in Occupational Injury Rates?

Publication: American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 52:735-741, 2009

Authors: T F Morse, A Deloreto, T St. Louis, and J D Meyer

This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2009-09-23.