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Data from many different sources on the nature and prevalence of work-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths are now available in one publication for the first time in Worker Health Chartbook, 2000, released recently by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in Atlanta.
The Chartbook provides a one-stop resource for current statistics on numbers and types of occupational injuries, illnesses, and deaths by year, as well as incidence rates and trends over time.
The statistics are presented in easily readable charts, tables, and graphs, with accompanying text summaries. The data are grouped according to subject matter, including an overview chapter, individual chapters for fatal and nonfatal injuries and illnesses, and a chapter focusing on mining, the industry with the highest rate of fatal work-related injuries in the United States.
The data are drawn from many different systems administered by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, NIOSH, and other government agencies for monitoring the incidence of occupational injuries, illnesses, and deaths, according to Linda Rosenstock, MD, MPH, NIOSH director, who commented on the project at the publication’s release.
"For the first time, the Chartbook offers a handy working reference that puts volumes of data at users’ fingertips," Rosenstock says. "Also, by illustrating the fragmentary nature of occupational injury and illness surveillance and showing current gaps in information, the Chartbook presents compelling evidence for the need to improve, coordinate, and expand the existing surveillance systems."
The Chartbook provides a unique resource for identifying new and emerging occupational safety and health problems, tracking and monitoring occupational injury and illness incidence over time, targeting and evaluating the effectiveness of efforts to prevent job-related injury and illness, anticipating future needs and concerns, and identifying critical areas where more data are needed.
It is designed to be used by anyone interested in occupational safety and health, including occupational safety and health practitioners, legislators and policy-makers, health care providers, educators, researchers, workers, and employers.
Among the statistics and trends reported in the Chartbook are:
• Occupational injury fatality rates decreased by 43% between 1980 and 1995, from 7.5 to 4.3 deaths per 100,000 workers.
Similar trends over time are difficult to establish for fatal occupational illnesses because no surveillance system describes the magnitude of job-related diseases other than pneumoconioses or work-related lung diseases caused by hazardous dust exposures. Under that category, fatality rates from coal workers’ pneumoconiosis have decreased since 1968, but fatality rates from asbestosis have increased over the same period.
• In 1997, fatal occupational injuries claimed 6,238 workers, or about 17 workers per day.
Motor vehicle-related incidents were the leading cause of fatal workplace injury, excluding incidents that occurred while driving to or from work, and homicides were the second leading cause. Workers aged 65 and older had the highest rates of occupational injury death by age, and workplaces with one to 10 workers had the highest fatality rate by establishment size.
• The rate of nonfatal work-related injuries declined steadily in the 1990s.
Rates in the agriculture, construction, manufacturing, and transportation industries were above the average nonfatal occupational injury rate of 6.6 injuries per 100 full-time workers in all industries. Sprains, strains, and tears accounted for a disproportionately large share of injury cases that resulted in time away from work (nearly 800,000 cases in 1997). Nearly half of those cases involved back injuries.
• Nearly 430,000 nonfatal work-related illnesses were recorded in 1997.
These recorded cases involved disorders such as contact dermatitis that are most easily and directly related to workplace activity. Diseases such as cancers that develop over a long period, or those whose associations with the workplace are not immediately obvious, are overwhelmingly under recorded. Incident rates for the recorded illnesses in 1997 varied by industry, with the highest rate by type of industry occurring in manufacturing.
Rates increased with establishment size, the highest rate by size occurring in establishments employing 1,000 or more workers. Some 64% of the recorded cases involved repeated trauma disorders (such as carpal tunnel syndrome) and noise-induced hearing loss.
"NIOSH could not have produced this landmark resource alone," Rosenstock says. "Many other government agencies helped us compile and collate data from their respective injury and illness monitoring systems. Through similar partnerships, we and our colleagues in labor, industry, and government are working to identify and fill current gaps in occupational injury and illness surveillance."
Copies of the Worker Health Chartbook, 2000 are available by calling the toll-free NIOSH information number: (800) 35-NIOSH (356-4674). The book is also available on the Internet at www.cdc.gov/niosh/00-127pd.html.