Solis 'Encouraged' by Slight Dip in Injury Rate

"Illness and injury rates for public sector workers also continue to be alarmingly high at 5.7 cases for every 100 workers, which is more than 60 percent higher than the private sector rate," the Labor secretary noted.

U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said the BLS release on Oct. 20 that about 3.1 million injuries and illnesses were reported by private-sector employers in 2010, representing a rate of 3.5 cases per 100 full-time workers, is encouraging, but not nearly good enough.

BLS said the 2009 rate was 3.6 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers. The rate among private employers has declined significantly each year since 2002, when estimates from the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses were first published using the current OSHA requirements for recording occupational injuries and illnesses.

"We are encouraged by the reported decline in incidence rates for workplace injuries and illnesses, which is reflective of the joint effort of government, business, unions, and other organizations. Nevertheless, 3.1 million injuries and illnesses in the workplace is too high," Solis said in a statement. "Serious injuries and illnesses can knock a working family out of the middle class. Workers should not have to sacrifice their health and safety to earn a paycheck. We remain concerned that more workers are injured in the health care and social assistance industry sector than in any other, including construction and manufacturing, and this group of workers had one of the highest rates of injuries and illness at 5.2 cases for every 100 workers. The Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration will continue to work with employers, workers, and unions in this industry to reduce these risks.

"Illness and injury rates for public sector workers also continue to be alarmingly high at 5.7 cases for every 100 workers," she added, "which is more than 60 percent higher than the private sector rate. We must continue to work with state and local governments to ensure the safety of our public employees. A report like this also highlights the importance of accurate record keeping. Employers must know what injuries and illnesses are occurring in their workplaces in order to identify and correct systemic issues that put their workers at risk. We are concerned with poor recordkeeping practices and programs that discourage workers from reporting injuries and illnesses. That's why OSHA is working hard to ensure the completeness and accuracy of these data, which are compiled by the nation’s employers. As our economy continues to rebound and grow, we must ensure that safety and health are a part of that growth. Let's all remember that no job is a good job unless it is also a safe job."

According to the BLS report, manufacturing was the sole private-industry sector to experience an increase in its incidence rate, as it rose to 4.4 cases per 100 full-time workers in 2010 from 4.3 cases the year before. BLS said the higher rate resulted from a larger decline in hours worked than the decline in the number of reported cases.

The rate for the construction industry fell by 0.3 cases to 4.0 cases per 100 full-time workers in 2010.

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