People are asking...
BLS occupational injury and illness numbers come from the BLS annual Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. The survey captures data from Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) logs of workplace injuries and illnesses maintained by employers. While BLS occupational injury and illness data have been the subject of scrutiny from time to time, a study released in early 2006 is the first specific research documenting missing cases in individual firms, as determined by comparisons between BLS and state workers’ compensation data. BLS provided the researchers with access to occupational injury and illness data and facilitated the research activities, which were funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. BLS is taking a number of steps to learn more about these research results, and to address any deficiencies in its survey operations.
Another researcher is currently conducting a similar study using BLS and workers’ compensation data from several States. The BLS also is interested in the details of these comparisons, such as by type of injury or demographic characteristics of the injured worker. This type of information will help to focus BLS efforts to improve survey operations. In addition, BLS is developing its own “follow-back” study to ensure the survey correctly captures the data that employers have recorded on their OSHA logs. Further research is being planned as well. BLS will update this response as more information becomes available.
Among the issues that have been raised in the past is the coverage of the BLS occupational injury and illness data.
The BLS survey measures nonfatal injuries and illnesses only and excludes the self-employed; farms with fewer than 11
employees; private households; Federal government agencies; and, for national estimates, employees in State and local
government agencies. Data for railroads and certain mining industries are not from the BLS survey, but are supplied to
BLS from the Federal Railroad Administration and the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Data on fatal occupational
injuries are collected by a separate BLS program."
In 2005, 917 Hispanic workers were fatally injured while at work, a new series high.
While this figure is up 2 percent from 902 fatalities in 2004, larger increases in
employment resulted in a decline in the fatality rate from 5.0 to 4.9. Hispanic worker
fatalities accounted for 16 percent of the 5,702 total fatal work injuries that occurred
in the U.S. in 2005. The rate of 4.9 fatalities per 100,000 workers recorded for Hispanic
workers was a 22 percent higher rate than the rate of 4.0 fatalities per 100,000 employed
recorded for all workers. While fatal work injuries to Hispanic workers increased
in 2004 and 2005, they decreased in 2002 and 2003. In 2005, foreign-born Hispanic
workers accounted for 625 fatalities, or 68 percent of the fatalities to Hispanic workers."
Chart 3 on page 4 of the 2005
Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries news release presents numbers and rates of
fatal occupational injuries for selected occupations. Fatality rates are used to
compare the risk of incurring a fatal work injury among worker groups with varying
employment levels and are computed as: (N/W) x 100,000 where N = the number of worker
fatalities, age 16 and older (CFOI) and W = the annual average number of employed workers,
age 16 and older from the Current Population Survey (CPS). Note that occupations with the
highest number of fatalities do not necessarily have the highest fatality rates.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides incidence rates by industry, by establishment size, and for many different case types. You can use incidence rates to evaluate your injury and illness experience by comparing it to the national averages for similar types of organizations. The guide How to compute your firm's incidence rate shows you how to effectively use BLS data. You can access all of the BLS workplace injury and illness data by going to the Injury, Illness, and Fatalities home page.
Workplace violence --including assaults and suicides-- accounted for 16% of all work-related fatal occupational injuries in 2003. Homicides are perennially among the top three causes of workplace fatalities for all workers (see table 3, "Fatal occupational injuries by occupation and event or exposure, 2003"). In their article entitled "Work-related Homicides: The Facts", Eric Sygnatur and Guy Toscano note that, "Contrary to popular belief, the majority of these incidents are not crimes of passion committed by disgruntled coworkers and spouses, but rather result from robberies." Overall, work-related homicides have decreased 42% from 1994 to 2003. Non-fatal assaults and violent acts by persons accounted for less than 2% of all non-fatal injuries and illnesses in private industry in 2002, however, there were still almost 18,000 incidents of this nature resulting in time away from work (see Table R31.)
This type of information is not available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Because BLS ensures a pledge of confidentiality with all survey participants, we cannot share any confidential information, including any identification or injury rate. For information on establishments that may have been cited for workplace violations or for other regulatory guidelines, you should contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or call (202) 693-1999 (OSHA Office of Public Affairs). Almost all establishments must maintain an annual log of workplace injuries and illnesses, as mandated by OSHA. It is a requirement that employers post a summary of injuries and illnesses at the beginning of the year for incidents that occurred during the previous year for employee access. Also, upon request, employers may be required to share certain information with employees, but this is something that you should address with your company or with OSHA.
What information do the survey data provide about injury and illness severity?
The number of workdays lost and restricted is collected for individual cases involving days away from work. The severity of various worker and case characteristic categories, such as back injuries and wrist/hand disorders, can be compared. The survey is unique in collecting information on workdays lost and restricted for individual cases. This improves on the BLS annual survey's collection of this information for individual establishments (summary data). State workers' compensation reports do not contain this type of information on recuperation time.
Measures of recuperation time include the median number of lost workdays for various worker and case characteristics categories, and distribution of workdays lost and restricted for the aforementioned categories. The median helps to identify groups of workers and types of incidents associated with relatively long recuperation periods; the distribution helps focus in on those cases involving comparatively large numbers of workdays lost and restricted, such as 30 workdays or more.
Both measures are useful to employers and others in setting their priorities for preventing injuries and illnesses. Access to these data is provided from the Data section of our Safety and Health Statistics home page.
"Ergonomics" is a general term that has different meanings to different audiences. Most often, this term is applied to work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). The U. S. Department of Labor defines an MSD as an injury or disorder of the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage, and spinal discs. MSDs do not include disorders caused by slips, trips, falls, motor vehicle accidents, or similar accidents. The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes detailed characteristics for MSD cases that resulted in at least one lost day from work.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics produces annual rates, only, based on annual data, so any comparison may be inexact. As indicated in the guide, How to compute your firm's incidence rate, the basic formula is:
(Number of injuries and illnesses X 200,000) / Employee hours worked = Incidence rate
where the 200,000 hours in the formula represent the equivalent of 100 employees working 40 hours per week, 50 weeks per year.
One could compute a partial year incidence rate by dividing the number of cases by the hours worked for a certain period, and then multiplying the result by the part of 200,000 (the 12-month constant) represented by that certain period. For a single month, you would use 16,667. This approach, however, assumes that your injury and illness experience grows at a constant rate for the year. The alternative is to not adjust the constant (leave it at 200,000), and this assumes that you will not experience any additional injuries or illnesses. Both assumptions may not be too realistic.
Last Modified Date: October 27, 2006
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