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November 17, 2017
California occupational injury and illness rates hold steady in 2016

Findings from the 2016 California Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR), are now available on the DIR website, and the news is good for California employers and workers. According to the report, California’s overall incidence rate of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses continued to tick downward in 2016, from 3.8 cases per 100 full time employees to 3.7 – the lowest rate in over a decade.

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Here’s a look at how the statistics break down.

Public vs. private

Public and private sector employers in California reported over 466,000 nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2016.  Slightly more than three quarters (78 percent) occurred in private industry; state and local government accounted for the remaining 22 percent.

Lost time and days away from work

The report shows no change in the statewide all-industry rate of “lost time” cases (formally called “days away from work, job transfer or restriction” [DART] cases) and days away from work (DAFW) cases. Lost time cases are defined as those that result in job transfer or restriction as a result of a work-related injury or illness, or when the employer or a health-care professional keeps or recommends keeping an employee from performing the routine functions of his or her job or from working the full workday that the employee would have been scheduled to work before the injury or illness occurred. Days away from work cases are those that result in at least one day away from work, with or without days of job transfer or restriction. The 272,700 DART cases that were reported in California in 2016 amount to a rate of 2.2 cases per 100 full time workers, which has held steady for the last four years. The 145,900  DAFW cases yield a rate of 1.2 cases per 100 full time workers – that rate has not changed in the past eight years.

New and inexperienced workers

New hires and inexperienced workers continue to suffer disproportionate rates of injury. In 2016, 29 percent of reported DAFW work injuries in California’s private industry occurred among workers with less than a year of tenure. Ten percent had worked for their employer for less than three months.

Construction was the most dangerous industry for new workers: 43 percent of DAFW injuries in construction were to workers who had been on the job for less than a year. In private-sector goods-producing firms in the private sector, 35 percent of DAFW injuries and illnesses occurred within a year of hire. In manufacturing, the number was 25 percent. Information service workers experienced the lowest percentage of DAFW injuries in their first year of work, at 15 percent.

Occupations and industries

Sorted by occupation, cleaning and maintenance workers (284 cases per 10,000 workers), workers performing installation and repairs (252 cases), and construction (243 cases) had the highest DAFW rates in 2016.

Broken down by industry, the two private sector industries with the highest reported rates of occupational injury and illness were natural resources and mining (a category that is dominated by agricultural work in California) and construction. Other industries whose injury and illness rate exceeded the statewide average of 1.2 were the trade and transportation, leisure and hospitality, other services (including waste management, janitorial, and temporary agencies), and education and health services industries.

Causes and types of injuries

The leading cause of DAFW injuries was overexertion and bodily reaction. Slips, trips, and falls were the third leading cause, so it’s unsurprising that the most common types of injuries were sprains, strains, and tears, followed by soreness and pain. Contact with an object or piece of equipment was the second-leading cause of DAFW work injuries and illnesses, which likely accounts for the high rates of cuts, laceration and punctures; bruises; fractures; and multiple traumatic injuries. Exposure to harmful substances or environments, transportation incidents, and workplace violence rounded out the top six causes of workplace injuries and illnesses.

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