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OSHA Reports Significant Decrease in Workplace Injuries

    Client Alerts
  • December 17, 2010

Last month, the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics released 2009 survey results for non-fatal workplace injuries in the U.S. The latest statistics continue a long-term trend of decreasing rates of workplace injuries and illnesses. The BLS survey is based on injuries per 100 employees, and therefore is not directly affected by lower employment levels. However, these accident rates may be affected by decreases in potentially dangerous production or construction activities due to economic factors.

The 2009 statistics show a drop in overall injury and illness rates from 3.9 per 100 employees in 2008 to 3.6. The manufacturing sector saw a 23 percent decrease in injuries between 2008 and 2009, and a 22 percent decrease in the construction industry. Industrial illness cases also saw across the board declines in 2009. Several job categories did show increases in injury rates, including truck drivers, nurses and cooks.

Current economic factors do not explain the long-term drop in illness and injury rates. Increased use of technology and automation have reduced injury rates in some hazardous industrial jobs. Better employer implementation of health and safety programs also helps explain the lower injury rates.

OSHA believes that employers underreport actual accident and injury rates, and thus distrust over the validity of the BLS numbers may account for federal OSHA's commitment for increased inspections and penalties to employers despite this long-term trend toward safer and healthier workplaces.