Workplace injuries fall to lowest rate in years

Give yourself a hearty pat on the back. Because of the work of occupational health professionals, more and more workers are going home to their families injury-free at the end of the work day.

The incidence of nonfatal work-related injuries and illnesses fell in 1995 to the lowest rate in nearly a decade, according to a survey of private industry by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a division of the U.S. Department of Labor in Washington, DC. Statistics for 1996 are not yet available.

A total of 6.6 million injuries and illnesses were reported during 1995, resulting in a rate of 8.1 cases for every 100 full-time equivalent workers. The rate was the lowest since 1986 and has declined for three years in a row — the first three-year decline since the early 1980s.

Among goods-producing industries, manufacturing had the highest incidence rate in 1995 with 11.6 cases per 100 full-time workers. The second highest was construction, with 10.6 cases per 100. This was the second consecutive year, and only the second time in the 20-year history of the survey, that the overall rate for construction fell below the rate in manufacturing. Within the service-producing sector, the highest incidence rate in 1995 was reported for transportation and public utilities, with 9.1 cases per 100. That was followed by retail and wholesale trade, with 7.5 cases per 100.

Of the 6.6 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses in 1995, nearly 6.1 million were injuries that resulted in either lost work time, medical treatment beyond first aid, loss of consciousness, restriction of work or motion, or transfer to another job. Injury rates generally were higher for mid-size establishments employing 50 to 249 workers than for smaller or larger establishments.

Eight industries accounted for nearly 30% of all the nonfatal injuries. (See chart, above.) These industries each had at least 100,000 injuries each, accounting for a total of 1.8 million nonfatal injuries.