On October 20, the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics released statistics on non-fatal private industry workplace injuries for 2010. For the eighth consecutive year, the injury and illness rate declined, from 5.0 cases per 100 workers in 2003, to the current rate of 3.5 incidents. The total number of reported illnesses and injuries also declined at a rate that exceeded that predicted by the weak job market.
Most of the decline appears to involve less serious incidents that do not require extensive medical treatment or days missed from work. The rates for these more serious injuries remained unchanged since 2009.
These statistics call into question the basis for aggressive new rules proposed by federal OSHA. If overall illness and injury rates are steadily declining, does this mean that the current regulatory regime is adequately addressing workplace safety issues? DOL noted in its report that these injury statistics are based on employer self-reporting, and that there continue to be concerns over potential underreporting.
In terms of particular industries, hospitals, and nursing and residential care facilities continued to experience some of the highest injury rates among private employers. OSHA can be expected to emphasize inspection and enforcement efforts on these employers. Of the states participating in the reports, Maine, Vermont and Montana showed the highest injury rates, with Texas, New York and Louisiana at the bottom.