Workplace Injuries Dip – But Less So

April 11, 2002 ( - The number of workplace injuries dipped slightly last year, according to the Department of Labor - but not at the pace that they have been on for nearly a decade now.

There were 1.66 million injuries and illnesses serious enough to result in more than a day of missed work in 2000, a 2.3% drop from the year before, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Workplace injuries had been on a steady decline since 1993, when 2.25 million lost-time injuries were reported.  Since then the tally has fallen by more than 28%, with an average annual decline of about 3.6%.

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The agency announced last week it would not force businesses to change equipment or facilities to reduce workplace injuries caused by repetitive motion and strain. The decision angered labor unions, which had pushed for mandatory regulations that would have forced workplace changes.

Strain Strains

Sprains, strains and tears were by far the most common lost-time injuries, accounting for nearly half (43.8%) of 2000’s total.

More than one in three injuries involved strain of the muscles, nerves or tendons, the types of injuries caused at least partly by ergonomics.  Last week the Labor Department announced plans to target such injuries with voluntary guidelines aimed at certain industries (see DOL to Unveil Ergonomic Guidelines ).

Days away from work for major injuries were highest for carpal tunnel syndrome (27 days). Fractures pulled workers away for 20 days, on average, while amputations registered third, with 18 days.

Industry Impact

Roughly 26% of such disorders occurred in service industries, followed by:

  • 24% – manufacturing
  • 15% – retailing

Overall, truck drivers have experienced the most injuries and illnesses with time away from work since 1993. In 2000, they had 141,100 injuries, up from 131,800 in 1999 – and missed a median nine days of work.

Men were victims in nearly two in three of the injuries – a proportion higher than their share of the hours worked. Workers ages 25 to 44 accounted for the most injuries, 55%.