Federal agencies Bureau of Labor Statistics

Downward trend stalls as nonfatal injury and illness rate in private sector unchanged: BLS

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Washington — The nonfatal injury and illness rate for private-sector U.S. employees remained steady in 2018, halting a trend of consistent decline, while the rate of nonfatal injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work climbed slightly, according to annual data released Nov. 7 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Reported nonfatal injuries and illnesses occurred at a rate of 2.8 cases per 100 full-time workers in 2018, matching the previous year’s figure. The rate stood at 2.9 in 2016 and 3.0 in 2015. Before the current findings, the rate had fallen in every year but one since the series began in 2003, remaining at 3.4 in 2011 and 2012.

Estimates from the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses show that, in 2018, approximately 2.8 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses were reported, a figure “essentially unchanged from 2017,” a BLS press release states. The total includes 900,380 cases that resulted in at least one day away from work, for a rate of 89.7 per 10,000 full-time workers – up from 89.4 in 2017.


For the first time, data included national estimates for emergency room and hospital visits for injuries and illnesses requiring DAFW, according to the release. Among such cases, 333,380 (37%) required a worker to visit a medical facility, with 294,750 of these including a trip to an ER but no hospitalization.

Other findings:

  • The median DAFW needed to recover was eight, unchanged from 2017.
  • Sprains, strains and tears accounted for 308,630 cases requiring DAFW (34.3%).
  • The rate of nonfatal injuries and illnesses among retail trade workers increased to 3.5 cases per 100 full-time workers from 3.3 in 2017, marking the first increase in the industry since 2003. DAFW cases in retail trade stemming from slips, trips or falls increased 11%.

Former OSHA administrator David Michaels called the report “ominous” in a Nov. 7 tweet. Citing regulation limitations as well as research commissioned by BLS, Michaels suggests estimates from employer injury logs may be undercounted.

“For the first time since 2012, the rate of injuries has not declined. But the toll on workers is likely far worse than it appears,” Michaels tweeted.

The data release is the first of two annual reports from BLS. The second, scheduled for Dec. 17, will highlight Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries findings.

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