Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

How complete are BLS counts of workplace injuries and illnesses?

BLS occupational injury and illness numbers come from the BLS annual Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. The survey captures data from Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) logs of workplace injuries and illnesses maintained by employers. While BLS occupational injury and illness data have been the subject of scrutiny from time to time, a study released in early 2006 is the first specific research documenting missing cases in individual firms, as determined by comparisons between BLS and state workers’ compensation data. BLS provided the researchers with access to occupational injury and illness data and facilitated the research activities, which were funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. BLS is taking a number of steps to learn more about these research results, and to address any deficiencies in its survey operations.

Another researcher is currently conducting a similar study using BLS and workers’ compensation data from several States. The BLS also is interested in the details of these comparisons, such as by type of injury or demographic characteristics of the injured worker. This type of information will help to focus BLS efforts to improve survey operations. In addition, BLS is developing its own “follow-back” study to ensure the survey correctly captures the data that employers have recorded on their OSHA logs. Further research is being planned as well. BLS will update this response as more information becomes available.

Among the issues that have been raised in the past is the coverage of the BLS occupational injury and illness data. The BLS survey measures nonfatal injuries and illnesses only and excludes the self-employed; farms with fewer than 11 employees; private households; Federal government agencies; and, for national estimates, employees in State and local government agencies. Data for railroads and certain mining industries are not from the BLS survey, but are supplied to BLS from the Federal Railroad Administration and the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Data on fatal occupational injuries are collected by a separate BLS program.

How many Hispanic or Latino workers have been fatally injured on the job?

For 2007 preliminary data, 908 Hispanic or Latino workers were fatally injured while at work. This figure represents an 8 percent decrease from the 990 fatalities reported in the final 2006 data. Fatalities incurred by Hispanic or Latino workers accounted for 17 percent of the 5,488 total fatal work injuries that occurred in the U.S. in 2007. The rate of 4.4 fatalities per 100,000 workers recorded for Hispanic or Latino workers was 19 percent higher rate than the rate of 3.7 fatalities per 100,000 employed recorded for all workers. In 2007, foreign-born Hispanic or Latino workers accounted for 607 fatalities, or 67 percent of the fatalities to Hispanic or Latino workers.

Which occupations have the highest fatality rates?

The latest data on fatality rates can be found on the webpage, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) - Current and Revised Data. Fatality rates are used to compare the risk of incurring a fatal work injury among worker groups with varying employment levels and are computed as: (N/W) x 100,000 where N = the number of worker fatalities, age 16 and older (CFOI) and W = the annual average number of employed workers, age 16 and older from the Current Population Survey (CPS). Note that occupations with the highest number of fatalities do not necessarily have the highest fatality rates.

Using employment numbers in the denominator is only one method that can be used to calculate a fatality rate. Another method would be to use the number of hours worked as the denominator. Hours-based rates can factor in how long workers are exposed to dangerous working conditions. However, because of limitations in the availability of data on hours worked, employment data are used instead.

How can I evaluate our safety record?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides incidence rates by industry, by establishment size, and for many different case types. You can use incidence rates to evaluate your injury and illness experience by comparing it to the national averages for similar types of organizations. The guide How to compute your firm's incidence rate shows you how to effectively use BLS data. You can access all of the BLS workplace injury and illness data by going to the Injury, Illness, and Fatalities home page.

How widespread is violence in the workplace? Homicides?

Workplace violence —including assaults and suicides— accounted for 15% of all work-related fatal occupational injuries in 2007. Homicides are perennially among the top four causes of workplace fatalities for all workers (see Slide 6 of the 2007 CFOI Chart Package). In their article entitled "Work-related Homicides: The Facts", Eric Sygnatur and Guy Toscano note that, "Contrary to popular belief, the majority of these incidents are not crimes of passion committed by disgruntled coworkers and spouses, but rather result from robberies." Overall, work-related homicides have decreased 44% from the series high in 1994 to 2007. Non-fatal assaults and violent acts by persons accounted for less than 2% of all non-fatal injuries and illnesses in private industry in 2006, however, there were still almost 16,000 incidents of this nature resulting in time away from work (see Table R31.)

Where can I find another company's injury rate?

This type of information is not available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Because BLS ensures a pledge of confidentiality with all survey participants, we cannot share any confidential information, including any identification or injury rate. For information on establishments that may have been cited for workplace violations or for other regulatory guidelines, you should contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or call (202) 693-1999 (OSHA Office of Public Affairs). Almost all establishments must maintain an annual log of workplace injuries and illnesses, as mandated by OSHA. It is a requirement that employers post a summary of injuries and illnesses at the beginning of the year for incidents that occurred during the previous year for employee access. Also, upon request, employers may be required to share certain information with employees, but this is something that you should address with your company or with OSHA.

What kind of ergonomics numbers exist?

"Ergonomics" is a general term that has different meanings to different audiences. Most often, this term is applied to work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). The U. S. Department of Labor defines an MSD as an injury or disorder of the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage, and spinal discs. MSDs do not include disorders caused by slips, trips, falls, motor vehicle accidents, or similar accidents. The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes detailed characteristics for MSD cases that resulted in at least one lost day from work.

How do I compute injury rates for time periods of less than a year?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics produces annual rates, only, based on annual data, so any comparison may be inexact. As indicated in the guide, How to compute your firm's incidence rate, the basic formula is:

(Number of injuries and illnesses X 200,000) / Employee hours worked = Incidence rate

where the 200,000 hours in the formula represent the equivalent of 100 employees working 40 hours per week, 50 weeks per year.

One could compute a partial year incidence rate by dividing the number of cases by the hours worked for a certain period, and then multiplying the result by the part of 200,000 (the 12-month constant) represented by that certain period. For a single month, you would use 16,667. This approach, however, assumes that your injury and illness experience grows at a constant rate for the year. The alternative is to not adjust the constant (leave it at 200,000), and this assumes that you will not experience any additional injuries or illnesses. Both assumptions may not be too realistic.

How can I compare my firm's injury and illness experience to others?

Incidence rates by industry, by establishment size, and for many different case types are available from BLS. Using incidence rates allows a firm to evaluate its injury and illness experience and compare its experience to other firms doing the same type of work and of the same employment size group. A guide that describes how to compute your firm's incidence rate is available.

I am a safety specialist interested in the types of injuries and illnesses that are occurring in my industry. I would like to know which employees are most likely to be injured, and what events are causing most of the injuries and illnesses. Do you have data that can help me?

Yes. Both the case and demographic data from the survey of occupational injuries and illnesses and the fatality data available from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries provide this information. Access to these data is provided from the Data section of our Safety and Health Statistics home page.

What information do the survey data provide about workers who are injured?

The age, sex, occupation, race, and length of service with employer are the attributes of the worker collected for days away from work cases.  For the Nation and for participating States, distributions of days away from work cases by the various categories comprising each worker characteristic can be developed. From those distributions, important worker groups can be identified and separate injury and illness profiles developed. For example, separate profiles for women, older workers, and nursing occupations can be developed.

One analytical approach to identifying relatively hazardous jobs will be to compare a job's share of total employment to its share of total days away from work cases. This employment-injury comparison also can be useful at the State level, although usually at a higher level of occupational aggregation. The Bureau's annual bulletin Geographic Profiles provides figures on women employed in farming, forestry, and fishery occupations which can be compared to OSH State data for the same workers. Access to these data is provided from the Data section of our Safety and Health Statistics home page.

What information do the survey data provide about the injuries that have occurred?

Physical condition (nature), part of the body affected, source, and event/exposure will be the principal case characteristics gleaned from employers' descriptions about the circumstances surrounding the incidents.  The principal case characteristics and their categories can be presented in separate tabulations for the Nation and for participating States.

Frequency distributions and incidence rates for most case characteristic categories can be generated. These incidence rates tell us, for example, how frequently disabling falls occur in the construction industry of various States. With this information, a State with a relatively high rate of such falls might devote more resources to the study of how employers and employees are dealing with this particular hazard and offer advice on working under adverse weather conditions or the use of safety gear. Access to these data is provided from the Data section of our Safety and Health Statistics home page.

Who uses these data?

Employers and employees, policymakers, safety standards writers, safety inspectors, health and safety consultants, and researchers are some of the most frequent users of survey data.

Employers and employees need definitive statistics on what kinds of serious injuries and illnesses occur to others whose work and workforce size are similar to theirs. BLS Safety and Health data permit employers to learn about the circumstances surrounding those incidents so that they can disarm potential hazards where they work.

Policymakers need to know how the safety and health of workers in their State compares to workers in other States doing comparable work. The survey helps these managers determine the additional need for State safety and health programs.

Safety standards writers need to know the factors surrounding injuries and illnesses that their standards were meant to prevent. Do those standards need revision, or just better enforcement? Are new standards needed for uncovered incidents? The survey supplemented by special studies can help answer important questions of this type.

Safety inspectors need to know how best to allocate their time among and within establishments. By targeting where injuries and illnesses most frequently occur and their characteristics, survey data help in selecting which firms to visit and what hazards to look for. These visits are also opportunities for inspector and employer to consult on ways to eliminate work hazards.

Safety and health consultants need to understand job hazards fully to develop effective training packages and educational materials for employers and their employees. The survey collects information on work activity that will help consultants piece together what precipitated an accident or exposure. Special studies of work hazards can provide additional assistance.

Researchers need to direct their limited resources at widespread problems, such as the proper manual lifting techniques and the best designs for tools and safety gear. They find survey data useful in focusing on those work hazards.


Last Modified Date: August 20, 2008