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November 13, 2023
BLS: Injuries, illnesses rose in 2022

Private sector employers reported 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2022—up 7.5% from 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported November 8. The increase was driven by the rise in both injuries, up 4.5% to 2.3 million cases, and illnesses, up 26.1% to 460,700 cases.

The increase in the number of illnesses was driven by a rise in respiratory illness cases, which were up 35.4% to 365,000 cases in 2022. Respiratory illnesses in 2021 had decreased compared with 2020.

The rate of illness also increased in 2022, with private-industry employers reporting a rate of 45.2 cases per 10,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers compared with 37.7 cases in 2021. The increase was driven by a rise in the respiratory illness rate, which rose from 27.8 cases per 10,000 FTE workers in 2021 to 35.8 cases in 2022.

For the first time, the BLS reported nationwide all-industry biennial estimates for days away from work (DAFW) and days of job transfer or restriction (DJTR), with detailed case characteristics and worker demographics. The bureau will now publish its Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII) data every 2 years.

Over the 2-year 2021 to 2022 period, there were 2.2 million cases involving DAFW, representing 66.5% of the total cases involving days away from work, job restriction, or transfer (DART). The median DJTR over 2021 to 2022 was 15 days.

Occupations, events, exposures: Case characteristics

Transportation and material-moving occupations experienced the highest number of DART cases among major occupation groups, with 835,040 total injuries and illnesses over the 2021 to 2022 period. These cases occurred at an annualized incidence rate of 410.0 cases per 10,000 FTE.

During 2021 to 2022, 78.6% (223,680) of all DART cases among healthcare practitioners and technical occupations resulted in at least 1 DAFW, while the remaining 21.4% (61,020) resulted in 1 or more DJTR. Among production occupations, 53.8% (223,840 cases) of all DART cases resulted in 1 or more DAFW, while the remaining 46.2% (192,480 cases) required 1 or more DJTR.

During the 2021 to 2022 period, overexertion and bodily reaction had the most DART cases at 1,001,440, followed by contact with objects and equipment with 780,690 cases.

Injuries due to overexertion and bodily reactions can be costly. This summer, insurer Liberty Mutual revealed in its Workplace Safety Index (WSI) that overexertion (lifting heavy loads) collectively cost employers $12.84 billion a year in medical costs and lost wages. Awkward postures, or “other exertions or bodily reactions,” cost employers $3.67 billion a year.

The BLS reported that of the total DART cases due to overexertion and bodily reaction, 521,350 cases (52.1%) were DAFW cases, which occurred at an incidence rate of 26.2 cases per 10,000 FTE workers and required a median of 14 DAFW.

The remaining 480,090 (47.9%) were DJTR cases, which occurred at an annualized incidence rate of 24.1 cases per 10,000 FTE workers and required a median of 20 DJTR.

Among transportation and material-moving occupations in 2021 to 2022, most DART cases (329,150) were due to overexertion and bodily reaction. Half of those cases (165,690) resulted in 1 or more DAFW, with a median of 21 days away. The other half (163,460 cases) involved at least 1 DJTR, with a median of 20 days.

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