Workplace Injuries and Illnesses Show Some Changes from 2019 to 2020

Image by Karuvadgraphy from Pixabay
Published On
Dec 2, 2021

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its annual report on workplace injuries and illnesses for 2020. The estimates in the BLS report come from the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII).

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), “the results are not surprising but are very interesting,” with the COVID-19 pandemic playing “a unique role” in impacting workplace injuries and illnesses. “As expected, we saw a drop in workplace injuries and an increase in illnesses,” said the NSC. In addition, it reports, “A very concerning shift in 2020 was that for the first time ever, women experienced slightly more injury and illness involving days away from work than men.”

“The decline in injury and illness cases was due to a drop in injury cases, with private industry employers reporting 2.1 million nonfatal injuries in 2020, down from 2.7 million in 2019,” the BLS report stated.

According to the report, the rate of injury cases fell in 2020, with private industry employers reporting a rate of 2.2 cases per 100 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, down from 2.6 cases in 2019.

At the same time, it added, total reported illness cases more than quadrupled to 544,600 cases, up from 127,200 cases in 2019. This increase was driven by a nearly 4,000% increase in employer-reported respiratory illness cases in 2020 at 428,700, up from 10,800 in 2019.

Over the same period, the rate of illness cases increased from 12.4 cases per 10,000 FTE workers to 55.9 cases.

“The increase was driven by the rise in the respiratory illness rate, which rose from 1.1 cases per 10,000 FTE workers to 44.0 cases,” according to the BLS report.

In 2020, the median number of days away from work in all private industry occupations was 12 days, an increase from 8 days in 2019.

In terms of specific industries that employ large numbers of electricians, the incidence rate of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses in the utilities sector was 1.5 per 100 full-time workers in 2020, down from 2.2 per 100 full-time workers in 2019. The rate in the construction sector was 2.5 per 100 full-time workers in 2020, down from 2.8 per 100 full-time workers in 2019. In manufacturing, the rate was 3.1 per 100 full-time workers in 2020, down from 3.3 per 100 full-time workers in 2019.

This news release is the first of two releases from BLS covering occupational safety and health statistics for the 2020 calendar year. This SOII report presents estimates of counts and incidence rates of employer-reported nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses by industry and type of case, as well as detailed estimates of case circumstances and worker characteristics for cases that resulted in days away from work. A second release, planned for Dec. 16, 2021, will provide results from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries of all fatal work injuries occurring in the United States during the calendar year.

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