There are mixed reviews on the success of the Occupational Safety and Health's (OSHA) cooperative effort approaches to reduce injury and fatality rates in the United States. In November of 2005, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) - U.S. Department of Labor, released its 2004 occupational injury and fatality statistics. A total of 4.3 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses were reported in private industry workplaces during 2004, down from 4.4 million in 2003. Despite injury reductions, fatality rates climbed. The rate at which fatal work injuries occurred in 2004 was 4.1 per 100,000 workers, up slightly from a rate of 4.0 per 100,000 workers in 2002 and 2003. The increase in the fatality rate in 2004 was the first since 1994 when the rate was 5.3 fatalities per 100,000 workers.

Injury Rates

In 2004, injury cases occurred at a rate of 4.8 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers. This was a decline from the rate of 5.0 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers reported by BLS for 2003 and resulted from a 2.5 percent decrease in the number of cases reported combined with a 1.6 percent increase in the number of hours worked.

Injury rates are calculated using the following formula:

    IR = (N/EH) °- 200,000
    IR = Incidence Rate
    N = Total number of occupational injuries and illnesses
    EH = Total hours worked by all private industry employees during the calendar year
    (200,000 = Base for 100 equivalent full-time workers - 40 hours per and 50 weeks per year)

Goods-producing industries as a whole had an injury and illness rate of 6.5 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers, while service providing industries as a whole had a rate of 4.2 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers. Both of these rates declined by 0.2 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers from the rates reported for 2003. Among the goods-producing industry sectors, incidence rates during 2004 ranged from 3.8 cases per 100 full-time workers in mining to 6.6 cases per 100 full-time workers in manufacturing. Within the service providing industry sectors, incidence rates ranged from 0.9 cases per 100 full-time workers in the finance and insurance sector to 7.3 cases per 100 full-time workers in transportation and warehousing. Among all private industry sectors, only the utilities sector experienced a significant increase in the injury and illness rate, rising from 4.4 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers in 2003 to 5.2 cases in 2004.

Fatality Rates

A total of 5,703 fatal work injuries were recorded in the United States in 2004, an increase of 2 percent from the revised total of 5,575 fatal work injuries reported for 2003.

Key findings of the 2004 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries:

  • Fatal work injuries among Hispanic workers were up 11 percent in 2004 after declining the previous two years.
  • The number of fatal work injuries among older workers (55 years of age and older) rose 10 percent in 2004, but fatalities among younger workers (16 to 24 years of age) declined.
  • Workplace homicides were down sharply in 2004 to the lowest level ever recorded by the fatality census.
  • Fatal work injuries resulting from being struck by an object rose 12 percent in 2004, and overtook workplace homicide as the third most frequent type of fatal event.
  • Fatal falls increased by 17 percent to a new series high, led by increases in the number of fatal falls from ladders and from roofs.
  • The number of fatal work injuries in the construction sector rose 8 percent in 2004, but because of employment increases in this sector, the fatality rate for construction was not significantly higher than the rate reported in 2003.
  • Twenty-seven states reported higher numbers of fatalities in 2004 than in 2003.

    OSHA Activity

    According to Jonathan Snare, OSHA's Acting Assistant Secretary, OSHA intends to continue their current level of enforcement activity. They exceeded their projected target of 37,700 inspections for FY 2004 by completing 39,167 inspections. OSHA has projected 37,700 inspections annually since 2003 and that number is not expected to change. Their mainstay for determining inspection priorities involves zeroing on the "right sites" based on conducting Site Specific Targeting (SST). This is a process of identifying individual employers in general industry and maritime with higher than average injury and illness rates. The data are gathered from OSHA injury information and surveys completed by employers in February of each year.

    More information on injury and fatality rates can be found at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (link below).