OCCUPATIONAL INJURIES AND ILLNESSES

OCCUPATIONAL INJURIES AND ILLNESSES

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), work-related stress is the “leading workplace health problem and a major occupational health risk, ranking above physical inactivity and obesity.” On the other hand, skin diseases or disorders, respiratory conditions, hearing loss, and poisonings are the most featured work-related injuries and illnesses by the Bureau of Labour Statistics.

Types and Causes

  • The US Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities (IIF) program records a wide range of information about workplace injuries and illnesses, which is collected and reported annually through the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII).
  • According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics’ (BLS) classification of illness cases by category of illness, skin diseases or disorders, respiratory conditions, hearing loss, and poisonings were the most featured.
  • Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) accounted for 30.3% of days-away-from-work injury and illness cases in 2018 in the private sector. MSDs occurred at a rate of 27.2 cases per 10,000 full-time workers, which is lower compared to 2017 and 2014 where the rates were 28.6 and 31.9, respectively.
  • Skin diseases are caused by permanent and prolonged exposure to hazardous chemicals and outdoor activities.
  • The most common skin diseases affecting workers include skin cancer, eruptions, eczema, various skin infections, such as staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome, impetigo, anthrax, skin abscesses, boils, and cellulite, inflammations, contact dermatitis, and ulcers.
  • Respiratory diseases mainly affect workers exposed daily to dangerous chemicals and irritating agents. These workers are at the risk of inhalation of toxic gases leading to the irritation and injury of the lungs and respiratory tract.
  • The most common illnesses in this category, covered by the workers’ compensation, include occupational asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), tuberculosis, mesothelioma, silicosis, pneumonitis, and pharyngitis.
  • Hearing loss is mainly caused by prolonged exposure to noises from noisy workplace machinery and equipment in workplace industries such as airports, nightclubs, and manufacturing sectors. Prolonged exposure to sounds with very high decibels generally decreases the hearing capacity of workers over time.
  • MSD disorders, which generally result from the use of excessive effort such as lifting, stretching, or pushing objects highly affect workers in construction, healthcare, such as stretcher-bearers and paramedics, factories, and warehouses.
  • Other common diseases and injuries associated with excessive force include hernias, skin disorders, shoulder and back injuries, leg and joint injuries, and ankle sprains.

Changes Over Time

  • There were 2.8 million cases of nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in the US private industry in 2018, which was similar to the number reported in 2017.
  • The rate of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses has been on a steady decline among private industry employees in the past 15 years.
  • The graph below illustrates changes in the incidence rate of nonfatal occupational injuries and illness per 100 full-time equivalent workers in the US between 2003 and 2018.

US

  • The incidence rate decreased from 5.0 in 2003 to 2.8 in 2018 and 2017 per 100 full-time workers.

Work-Related Stress

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), work-related stress is the “leading workplace health problem and a major occupational health risk, ranking above physical inactivity and obesity.”
  • According to the American Institute of Stress, 83% of the US workforce suffers from work-related stress, causing 120,000 deaths annually and $190 billion in healthcare costs.
  • Some major causes cited by surveyed employees include ineffective company communication (80%), heavy workload (39%), interpersonal issues (31%), juggling work and personal life (19%), and job security (6%).

Occupational Illness Number and Incidence Rates

  • According to the 2018 US SOII data, there were 176,900 cases of occupational illnesses, with an incidence rate of 15.4 per 10,000 full-time equivalent workers.
  • Skin diseases and disorders recorded the highest non-fatal occupational illness incidence rates and number of cases, followed by respiratory conditions, and hearing loss. There were 25,100 cases of skin disease illnesses, with an incidence rate of 2.2, 19,600 cases of respiratory conditions, with an incidence rate of 1.7, and 17,500 cases of hearing loss, with an incidence rate of 1.5 per 10,000 full-time equivalent workers.
  • An excel format of the data from SOII showing the number and incidence rates of occupational illnesses per industry can be found here.

Occupation and Source of Injury/Illness

  • There were 1,133,670 cases of non-fatal occupational injuries and illnesses in the US that resulted in workers taking days away from work, with 900,380 in the private sector, 177,120 in the local government, and 56,170 in the state government.
  • The highest number of cases were recorded in production, transportation, and material moving occupations (282,610), service occupations (213,440), and natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations (168,390).
  • Chemical products were the source of 12,440 of all the injuries and illnesses resulting in workers taking days away from work, with service occupation, including healthcare support and building, cleaning, and maintenance, accounting for 3,150 of them.
  • A comprehensive breakdown of all occupational injury and illness sources per type of occupation can be found here.
  • On the other hand, the most recorded natures of injuries or illnesses in the US private sector included sprains, strains, or tears (308,630), soreness pain (159,600), bruises or contusions (79,250), and cuts or lacerations (77,340).
  • A comprehensive breakdown of the injuries or illnesses by their nature can be found here.

Part of the Body Affected and Disabling Injuries

  • The back, hand, knee, shoulder, ankle, and foot were the parts of the body most affected by occupational injuries and illnesses in the US private sector.
  • There were 142,230 cases of back injuries, 123,990 cases of the hand, 79,380 cases of the knee, 68,070 cases of the shoulder, 49,210 cases of the ankle, and 47,180 cases of the foot.
  • A comprehensive breakdown of all occupational injury and illness sources per type of occupation can be found here.
  • On the other hand, some leading causes of the most disabling workplace injuries in the US include overexertion, falls, being struck by an object, and repetitive motions.
  • The graph below illustrates the top ten causes of the most disabling workplace injuries in the US in 2020.

Disabling falls

  • According to Statista, the direct costs for injuries resulting from falls on the same level alone were $10.8 billion.

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