BLS Injury and Illness Report Raises Workplace Safety Concerns

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

November 19, 2019

The number of nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses remained the same from 2017 to 2018, marking the first time the rate failed to decline since 2012, according to new data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS estimated there were 2.8 million work-related injuries and illnesses affecting private employers, including about 900,000 that caused an employee to miss at least one day of work.

The findings were part of the BLS annual Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. One of the more notable revelations was that the number and rate of nonfatal injuries among retail trade employers increased in 2018, with the number of cases increasing 4 percent to 409,000 cases and the incidence rate increasing 0.2 percentage points from 3.3 to 3.5 cases per 100 full-time equivalent workers. But when measuring only cases involving days missed from work in retail trade, incidents involving falls, slips or trips rose by a much greater rate, 11 percent, from 2017.

Some other occupations that had modest increases in their injury and illness rates in the BLS survey included:

  • Agriculture;
  • Manufacturing;
  • Transportation and warehousing.

Most other jobs had injury and illness rates that were largely unchanged from 2017 or had slightly fewer incidents than the previous year. But overall, nearly 334,000 cases resulted in a visit to a medical facility such as an emergency room or in-patient hospital.

In a statement, the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) expressed disappointment with the results. "Stagnant injury rates are unacceptable and a clear call to employers nationwide to take a harder look at their approach to workplace safety and health," said ASSP President Diana Stegall. "Incidents that harm workers are occurring far too often in every industry."

The organization represents more than 39,000 occupational safety and health professionals worldwide.