The public and private sectors regularly conduct studies, compile data, and publish workplace injuries and illnesses statistical reports, which can provide insight into what conditions and safety concerns need addressing. We’ve read through those reports to bring you the top 17 workplace injury statistics from which to learn.
Take note: much of the data on the workplace runs a year or two behind, which is why the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) workplace injury reports are from 2020.
1. Employees Suffered 2.7 Million Workplace Injuries
Employers reported to the BLS that there were 2.7 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses in 2020—down 5.7% from the 2.8 million in 2019. This number translates into 2.7 cases per 100 full-time employees (FTE).
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have impacted the total number of nonfatal injuries. Data shows that the number of cases causing a private industry worker to miss at least one day of work in 2020 is 32.4% higher than in 2019.
2. Workplace Illnesses Increased by 400%
The total impact of COVID-19 is still being determined but, according to the above BLS report, the total illnesses reported quadrupled in 2020. In 2019, there were 127,200 cases reported, while in 2020, there were 544,600 cases reported.
3. Injuries and Illnesses That Led to Missed Work Increased by 32.4%
In the same BLS report, nonfatal injuries and illnesses that resulted in a worker missing at least one day of work increased by 32.4% from 2019. Of these, 33.2% (390,020) were categorized as “other diseases due to viruses not elsewhere classified,” including COVID-19.
4. Healthcare Workers Missed the Most Work
In the study cited above, 10 occupations accounted for 38.3% of all days away from work. The top 3 occupations were nursing assistants, licensed practical nurses (LPNs), and registered nurses (RNs). Of these, nursing assistants were the highest with 96,480—this is an increase of 249.7% from 2019. RNs also increased by 290.8% from 2019 with 78,740 cases.
5. Only Healthcare and Social Assistance Sectors Increased in Total Injury and Illness Cases
Healthcare and social assistance saw an increase of 40.1%, and more than half of these resulted in missed work. There were 806,200 cases in 2020 within those industries—with more than half of those resulting in at least one day away from work.
For context, in 2019, the same sectors had 575,200 with 151,510, resulting in at least one day from work. That is an increase of 5.5 cases were 100 full-time employees (FTEs), compared to 3.8 per 100 FTEs in 2019. Meanwhile, the total injury and illness cases decreased or remained unchanged for all other industries.
6. Employees Missed Averaged 12 Days Away From Work
Per the data reported to the BLS in the above study, the median days away from work for all private industries was 12 days—this is an increase from eight days in 2019. Nursing assistants, licensed vocational nurses, LPNs, and RNs all saw a nearly doubled median number of days away from work. Among days missed due to viruses not classified elsewhere, healthcare and social assistance workers represented 74.1%.
7. Nonfatal Injury and Illnesses Decreased in Retail by 13.8%
In the same BLS report, retail saw a decline in cases of nonfatal injury and illnesses, from 3.4 to 3.1 per 100 FTEs. The drop in retail represents a decrease of 13.8%. However, despite the reduction, days away from work increased from 1 to 1.1 per 100 FTEs. The private leisure, entertainment, and hospitality industries also saw a decrease, from 3.4 to 3.1 per 100 FTEs.
8. Incidence Rates Have Fallen 75% Since 1972
Today’s incident rate of 2.7 represents a 75% decrease since 1972, which was when the first report on workplace safety was published. In 1972, the incident rate was 10.9 cases per 100 FTEs. With 50 years of data now compiled, the good news is the trend consistently is downward in the number of reported cases of workplace injuries.
9. Fatalities Decreased by 10.7%
There was a decrease of 10.7% in fatalities at work, from 5,333 in 2019 to 4,764 in 2020. For every 100,000 FTEs, there were 3.4 fatalities. A sobering way to put it is that a worker died every 111 minutes from work-related injuries in 2020. However, this is the lowest number since 2013.
Other things to note in this are:
- Women made up 8.1% of all fatalities
- Ages 45 to 54 suffered 954 fatalities, the lowest number for that demographic since 1992
- Fatalities increased for Hispanic and Latino workers from 4.2 in 2019 to 4.5 deaths per 100,000 FTEs
- African American workers had a 14.7% decrease in fatal work injuries
10. Nearly 50% of Work-related Fatalities Came From 2 Industries
In addition to tracking illness and injuries, the BLS also tracks fatalities. Per the report on fatalities at work, transportation and construction accounted for 47.4% of work-related fatalities. The transportation sector remained the most frequent occupation with fatal work-related injuries, with 1,778 or 37.3% of all reported fatalities. Healthcare increased by 15.8%, with 44 reported fatalities while law enforcement increased in 2020, from 97 to 115 fatalities, representing 18.6%.
11. Wyoming Had the Highest Workplace Fatality Rate
In 2020, Wyoming had the highest death rate among states, with 13 reported fatalities per 100,000 FTEs. Rhode Island had the lowest, with a ratio of 1.1 per 100,000 FTEs.
12. Texas Had the Most Work-related Fatalities
Even though Wyoming had the highest death rate, the most fatalities in 2020 were in Texas. It had 469 fatalities—this number represented 3.9 fatal workplace injuries per 100,000 workers. The leading cause of workplace fatal injury in Texas is under the category “transportation.”
13. California Had the Second Most Work-related Fatalities
California is the most populous state, but according to the NSC report cited above, it has the second most fatal workplace injuries. It reported 463 fatal workplace injuries in 2020—this number represented 2.9 cases per 100,000 FTEs.
14. Falling Was Most Frequent Standard Violation
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) publishes an annual top 10 most frequently cited standards list. Of the top 10, four are related to falling safety: ladders, scaffolding, fall protection training, and fall protection—which is number one in 2021.
In line with the increase in respiratory-related illnesses in 2020, OSHA’s second most cited standard was respiratory protection.
15. Small Businesses Have a High Rate of Incidence
Incident rates vary by size, but for a company with one to 10 employees, the incident rate is 1.1. For a small business with 11 to 49 employees, the number increases to 2.3; for 50 to 249 employees, the rate is 3.5.
16. Workplace Injuries and Illnesses Cost Employers $163.9 Billion
Per the NSC, work injury cost employers $163.9 billion in 2020. The total time lost for all injuries and illnesses was 99 million days. Liberty Mutual conducted a study on workplace costs and found in 2021 that workplace injuries cost companies $1 billion a week.
17. Overexertion and Bodily Reaction Are Second Leading Nonfatal Injury
Previously occupying the number one spot, overexertion and bodily reaction moved into the second leading cause of nonfatal injury and illness, with 22% of all reported injuries. It remains one of the most common workplace injuries. This category includes activities like lifting, pushing, pulling, and carrying.
Moving from sixth to the number one spot in 2020 was “exposure to harmful substances or environment.” COVID-19 falls under this category.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
The leading cause of a workplace injury or illness leading to days away from work in 2020 was exposure to harmful substances or environments. The second leading cause is overexertion and bodily reaction, followed by slips, trips, and falls.
Transportation incidents are the most frequent fatal event. In 2020, there were 1,778 fatal injuries in transportation. Transportation-related fatalities were nearly slightly more than 1/3 of all work-related fatalities.
In 2020, healthcare and social assistance workers had the highest injury rate. Manufacturing came in second, and retail trade third.
Workplace injuries take their toll on a company. Thankfully, the overall trend has been fewer workplace injuries and illnesses, but this doesn’t minimize the impact when an employee is away from work. While not every injury is covered by workers’ compensation, business owners can draw on the information above to make informed decisions when purchasing their workers’ comp insurance. By taking note of the top work injury statistics, you can stay one step ahead of the trends.