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The Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses

The Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 implemented regulations requiring most private industry employers to maintain records and prepare reports on work-related injuries and illnesses. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) was given the responsibility to develop a comprehensive statistical system for work-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths in private industry. In 1972, BLS, in cooperation with many state governments, designed an annual survey to estimate the number and frequency of work-related injuries and illnesses by detailed industry for the Nation and for States participating in the survey. The survey information is valuable to the safety community to assist with allocating prevention resources. In 1992, the survey information on nonfatal incidents involving days away from work was expanded to describe the occupation and other demographic information of workers who incur the work-related injuries and illnesses, the nature of the conditions and how they occurred, and the time away from work. The survey reports the incidence rates of injury and illness cases that allow the comparison among industries and establishments of varying sizes. Measures of injuries and illnesses are expressed as a constant to allow for a common statistical base across industries regardless of employment size of establishment. The rates are useful to evaluate the safety performance of a particular industry over time or to compare an industry’s safety record between states.

The Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses is a Federal/State program in which employer reports are collected from private industry employers. Survey data are obtained from employers having 11 or more employees in agricultural production, and from all employers in agricultural services, forestry, and fishing; oil and gas extraction; construction; manufacturing; transportation and public utilities; wholesale trade; retail trade; finance, insurance, and real estate; and services (except, private households). The Mine Safety and Health Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor and the Federal Railroad Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation provide information for employees who are covered by other Federal safety and health legislation. State agencies collect and process the survey data and prepare estimates using standardized procedures established by BLS to insure uniformity and consistency between states. Survey reports from approximately 5,400 private industry establishments are processed annually by the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations in cooperation with the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The survey can be used as an indicator of the magnitude of occupational safety and health problems. The statistics can help determine which industries need to improve safety programs and to assess the effectiveness of the Occupational Safety and Health Act in reducing work related injuries and illnesses. Labor and management can use the estimates obtained in the survey to evaluate safety programs. Other users include insurance carriers involved in workers’ compensation, industrial hygienists, manufacturers of safety equipment, researchers, and others concerned with job safety and health.

The annual survey estimates the numbers and incidence rates of nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses based on logs kept by private industry employers during the year. The number of injuries and illnesses reported in any given year can be influenced by changes in the level of economic activity, working conditions and work practices, worker experience and training, and the number of hours worked.