A recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report revealed that employers reported increased nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2022. This surge within private industry workplaces showed a 7.5 percent rise from 2021 and raised significant concerns within the workforce. Overall, the report examines the key factors contributing to the increase as reported to the BLS. In December 2022, the BLS released its 2021 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI). The CFOI provides a count of workplace fatalities in the U.S. during the calendar year.

The Alarming Increase in Workplace Injuries and Illnesses

According to the report, private industry employers reported 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2022. This is a considerable uptick from the previous year. The surge is due to the combination of two factors:

  • the rise in injuries, which increased by 4.5 percent to 2.3 million cases, and
  • a rise in illnesses, which saw a 26.1 percent increase, totaling 460,700 cases.

One notable aspect of the increase in illnesses is the rise in respiratory illness cases. Specifically, these cases spiked by 35.4 percent, reaching 365,000 cases in 2022. The increase significantly contrasts with the decrease in respiratory illnesses observed in 2021 compared to 2020. The BLS and the Department of Labor (DOL) obtained these findings from the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII).

The Impact on Workdays

Over the two years of 2021-2022, there were 2.2 million cases involving days away from work (DAFW). This number represents 66.5 percent of cases involving days away from work, job restriction, or transfer (DART). These cases occurred at an annualized incidence rate of 112.9 cases per 10,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers and required a median of 10 days away from work.

Additionally, there were 1.1 million cases involving days of job transfer or restriction (DJTR), accounting for 33.5 percent of total DART cases. These cases occurred at an annualized rate of 56.9 cases per 10,000 FTE workers, with a median of 15 days of job transfer or restriction over the same period.

Understanding the Data Expansion

The report titled “Employer-Reported Workplace Injuries and Illnesses (2021-2022)” also marks a significant development with the introduction of nationwide all-industry biennial estimates for DAFW and DJTR by detailed case characteristics and worker demographics. According to the BLS, the agency will publish this specific data every two years. This expansion provides a more comprehensive picture of how employers manage workplace injuries and illnesses.

Examining the Annual Rates

In 2022, the total recordable cases (TRC) incidence rate in private industry was 2.7 cases per 100 FTE workers. While the rate of injury cases remained unchanged from 2021 at 2.3 cases per 100 FTE workers, the illness rate increased. Private industry employers reported an illness rate of 45.2 cases per 10,000 FTE workers, compared to 37.7 cases in 2021. This increase can be attributed mainly to the rise in respiratory illness cases, from 27.8 cases per 10,000 FTE workers in 2021 to 35.8 cases in 2022.

Examining Case Characteristics and Worker Demographics

The report also delves into case characteristics and worker demographics. Among healthcare practitioners and technical occupations, 78.6 percent of all DART cases resulted in at least one day away from work. On the other hand, production occupations had 53.8 percent of cases, resulting in one or more days away from work. Transportation and material moving occupations experienced the highest number of DART cases, with 835,040 total injuries and illnesses.

Key Insights by Occupation, Event/Exposure, Age Group, and Other Information

Overexertion and bodily reaction accounted for the most DART cases, followed by contact with objects and equipment. Notably, a significant portion of exposure to harmful substances or environments cases involved at least one day away from work. The data also provides insights into specific occupations and their associated injury and illness trends.

Finally, the report highlights that persons aged 25 to 34 accounted for 759,560 cases involving DART. A notable increase was observed in respiratory illnesses in the private health care and social assistance sector, and musculoskeletal disorders remained a significant concern.

Employer Takeaways

In conclusion, the recent increase in workplace injuries and illnesses underscores the pressing need for enhanced safety measures. Businesses must also take a proactive approach to addressing health and safety concerns in the workplace. (Employers can find additional information on six common workplace hazards to address here.) In summary, employers must prioritize the well-being of their workforce, focusing on injury and illness prevention to create safer and healthier work environments.