In late 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report compiling all the latest data on occupational injuries and illnesses. The report paints a picture of injury rates that have been relatively stable over the last few years, without any significant gains in workplace safety. Unsurprisingly, those working in certain occupations were far more likely to suffer from a workplace injury.
Injury Rates Largely Unchanged
For every 10,000 full-time employees working in 2011, 117 suffered a nonfatal occupational injury or illness that required days away from work to recuperate. The total number of workplace injury or illness cases remained statistically unchanged from the previous year, at a total of 1,181,290. The median days away from work — according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a key indicator of the severity of injuries and illnesses — also remained unchanged from the previous year at eight days.
Some types of work are more hazardous than others; in 2011, five occupations accounted for nearly 20 percent of all reported workplace injuries or illnesses. The workers facing the highest injury rates were:
- nursing aides and orderlies and attendants
- janitors and cleaners
- heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers
- police officers and sheriff's patrol officers
Musculoskeletal disorder cases were the most common type of workplace injury and illness cases. Musculoskeletal disorders affect the body's muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments and nerves, and can either develop over time (as with repetitive stress injuries) or can be the result of sudden trauma (for instance, a sprain). A third of all injury and illness cases — 387,820 in total — were musculoskeletal disorders.
What the Report Means for Workers
You likely know about many of the potential dangers that are unique to your line of work. However, on their own, workers can only do so much to prevent workplace accidents that can cause injury and to fight job conditions that lead to occupational illnesses over time. Employers are better suited to ensure workplace safety, for instance, by providing adequate training, safety equipment and a safe work environment.
The fact that occupational injury rates have remained the same shows that no significant gains have been made in workplace safety. This puts you, and those who depend on you, at risk.
Fortunately, the workers' compensation system is set up to provide injured workers with medical benefits, partial wage replacement, and in some instances, extra compensation for permanent effects of an injury like scarring or disfigurement. While you do not have to prove that your employer was negligent — in other words, that they caused your injury — to receive workers' compensation benefits, you do have to show that your injury was work-related. Additionally, many workers' comp insurers try to downplay the seriousness of an injury in an attempt to limit their payout to workers; it may be up to you to prove the full extent of your injury and secure the fair compensation you are entitled to.
If you've suffered a workplace injury or illness, don't risk the benefits you and your family need. Talk to a workers' compensation attorney today, and ensure you receive the full compensation you deserve.