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BLS: Nonfatal workplace injuries increased in 2021, but illnesses dropped significantly

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Washington — The number of reported workplace injuries in the U.S. private sector increased in 2021, but a decline in respiratory illnesses – including COVID-19 – helped drive down the combined number of nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses, data released Nov. 7 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows.

Workers in the private industry experienced an estimated 2.2 million nonfatal injuries in 2021 – up from 2.1 million the previous year. The rate of nonfatal injuries increased to 2.3 per 100 full-time equivalent workers from 2.2 in 2020.

However, employers reported 365,200 nonfatal illnesses in 2021 – down from 544,600 in 2020. Likewise, the number of recorded respiratory illnesses declined to 269,600 from 428,700 in 2020. By comparison, that total was 10,800 in 2019 – before the COVID-19 pandemic. BLS states that the 2021 data includes cases of COVID-19 “when a worker was infected as a result of performing their work-related duties and met other recordkeeping criteria.”

Overall, private industry employers reported 2.6 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2021 – a 1.8% decrease from the year before. The rate of total recordable cases remained unchanged, at 2.7 per 100 FTEs.

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

Other 2021 data highlights:

  • The transportation and warehousing industry and the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting industry had the highest rate of nonfatal injuries, each at 4.3 per 100 full-time workers.
  • Health care and social assistance had the highest rate of workplace illnesses, at 115.9 per 10,000 full-time workers. By comparison, the industries with the next highest rates were retail trade (46.2) and manufacturing (42.8).

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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