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BLS: Nonfatal injuries and illnesses in private sector down slightly, but respiratory illness cases rise dramatically

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Washington — The number of nonfatal work-related injuries and illnesses in the U.S private sector, as well as the nonfatal injury and illness rate, decreased slightly in 2020. However, estimated injuries and illnesses that resulted in at least one day of lost work soared by nearly a third amid the COVID-19 pandemic, data released Nov. 3 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows.

Workers in private industry experienced an estimated 2.7 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses in 2020 – down from 2.8 million the previous year. However, BLS reports an estimated 1,176,340 nonfatal injuries and illnesses that resulted in days away from work – a 32.4% increase from 2019. According to an agency press release, that estimate includes more than 390,000 cases categorized as “other diseases due to viruses not elsewhere classified, which includes reported COVID-19 pandemic-related illnesses.”

Additionally, the agency observed a surge in reported illness cases – which more than quadrupled to 544,600 in 2020 – and a notable jump in employer-reported respiratory illness cases, which climbed to 428,700 in 2020 from 10,800 the previous year.

BLS obtained its estimates from the agency’s Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses.


Other 2020 data highlights:

  • Total injury and illness cases decreased or stayed the same in all private industry sectors apart from health care and social assistance, which experienced a 40.1% increase.
  • The total recordable rate in the manufacturing sector decreased to 3.1 per 100 FTE workers from 3.3 in 2019.
  • Injured workers 65 or older had a median DAFW of 14, compared with 16 the year before.

The data release is the first of two annual reports from BLS. The second, scheduled to be released Dec. 16, will highlight Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries findings.

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