Workplace Injuries

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VI.B.0

Lead Author(s): 

Andrew N. Pollak, MD

Supporting Author(s): 

Sylvia I. Watkins-Castillo, PhD

Workplace injuries are tracked by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, with data published annually on these injuries (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/osh2.toc.htm ). Musculoskeletal workplace injuries include fractures, bruises/contusions, and amputations, as well as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). MSDs are often cumulative and include repetitive motion injuries that occur when the body reacts to strenuous repetitive motions (ie, bending, climbing, crawling, reaching, twisting) or overexertion. MSD injuries include sprains, strains, tears, back pain, soreness, carpal tunnel syndrome, hernia, and musculoskeletal system and connective diseases. MSD cases are more severe than the average nonfatal workplace injury or illness, typically involving an average of several additional days away from work. In 2011, the median number of days away from work for all workplace injuries was 8 days; for MSD injuries, the median was 11 days. (Reference Table 6B.2.1 PDF CSV)

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Workplace Injuries

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Workplace injuries are tracked by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, with data published annually on these injuries (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/osh2.toc.htm ). Musculoskeletal workplace injuries include fractures, bruises/contusions, and amputations, as well as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). MSDs are often cumulative and include repetitive motion injuries that occur when the body reacts to strenuous repetitive motions (ie, bending, climbing, crawling, reaching, twisting) or overexertion. MSD injuries include sprains, strains, tears, back pain, soreness, carpal tunnel syndrome, hernia, and musculoskeletal system and connective diseases. MSD cases are more severe than the average nonfatal workplace injury or illness, typically involving an average of several additional days away from work. In 2011, the median number of days away from work for all workplace injuries was 8 days; for MSD injuries, the median was 11 days. (Reference Table 6B.2.1 PDF CSV)

Trends in Workplace MSDs

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The rate of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses has significantly decreased over the past 18 years, in some part potentially because of heightened attention to workplace safety. In 1992, more than 2.3 million cases of work-related injuries and illnesses were reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By 2010, the number had dropped to 933 thousand. A similar decline has been seen in the number of MSD injuries; however, the relative percentage of MSD injuries to all workplace injuries has declined only a few percentage points. In the 1990s and early 2000s, one in three workplace injuries was a MSD injury. For the last five years, this ratio has hovered around 30%.

Males sustain workplace injuries at twice the rate of females. They also are away from work an average of 2 days longer than females after a workplace injury. It is likely that at least a portion of the reason for this difference is the type of work involved, with males working more frequently in industries where a workplace injury is more common. (Reference Table 6B.1.1 PDF CSV and Table 6B.1.2 PDF CSV)
Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses Involving Days Away from Work, United States 1992-2010

Workplace MSD Injuries

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The type of workplace injury is a major factor in defining the median number of associated days away from work. Fractures have historically, and remain, the injury associated with the highest number of days away from work. In the late 1990s, a median of 20 to 21 days away from work were reported for a fracture; since the early 2000s, the median days away has been about 30. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a close second in terms of days away from work, but the median has fluctuated between 21 and 32 days over the years 1997 to 2010, with no discernible trend pattern. Amputations and tendonitis are the remaining two injury types that are associated with a median of more than 10 days away from work.

Workers between the ages of 35 and 54 years sustain the largest number of nonfatal occupational injuries that involve days away from work, possibly reflecting the ages found in the workforce. Days away from work by type of injury reflected the distribution of workers by age, with the exception of carpal tunnel syndrome, where a larger proportion of days away from work was reported for workers between ages 45 and 54 years. (Reference Table 6B.2.1 PDF CSV and Table 6B.2.2 PDF CSV
Median Days Away from Work [1] for Nonfatal Injuries by Nature of Injury, United States 2010

Injuries by Body Part

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Workers often sustain injuries that affect multiple parts of their body. However, injuries to the upper extremities (shoulder, arm, wrist, hand), trunk (including the back), and lower extremities (knee, ankle, foot, toe) far outnumber injuries to the head, neck, other body systems, and multiple parts of the body. About one-third of workplace injuries involving days away from work involve the upper extremities, with hand injuries the most common. Trunk and lower extremity injuries each account for about a fourth of all injuries. Knee injuries are the most common lower extremity injury. Back injuries account for three-fourths of trunk injuries. (Reference Table 6B.3.1 PDF CSV)
Private-Industry Work-Related Injuries Involving Days Away from Work by Body Part Affected,  United States 2011

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