Serious Injury Trending

Beyond question, the trending over the past several years has been significantly adverse with respect to serious worker injuries and the cost of workers compensation claims. This paper will present broadly-based statistics on serious injury trending and on the remarkable upward progression of workers compensation costs. Comments will be made on the types of activities out of which many serious injuries occur, the results of studies on the characteristics of incidents resulting in severity, significant conceptual barriers to serious injury prevention that must be overcome, and actions that safety practitioners can take to reduce serious injury potential.

Quite probably, the extent of the adverse trending differs considerably by industry. A procedure is described which safety practitioners can use to analyze the serious incident experience in the entities they choose to review. Having made such analyses, particularly with respect to the reality of the causal factors for serious injuries, they can determine what proposals should be made for improvements in the safety management systems for which they give counsel.

Bureau of Labor Statistics

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides a good data source on the trending of lost time cases with days away from work. For many years, BLS has issued reports titled "Lost-Worktime Injuries and Illnesses: Characteristics and Resulting Time Away From Work"

The data in Exhibits 1, 2 and 3 were taken from Table 10 in those BLS reports for the years 1995 through 2001. Table 10 is titled "Percent distribution of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work." Data is presented in Table 10 by selected numbers of days-away-from-work. Percents for each of the days-away-from work categories relate to the total number of the days away from work cases reported in a given year.

Exhibit 1.- From Bureau of Labor Statistics Reports (available in full paper).

From 1995 to 2001, these observations can be made with respect to the changes that occurred in the distribution of the total number of lost workday cases reported in each of those years.

  • The decreases in the percentages for the first four days-away-from-work categories are noteworthy.

  • For the 11-20 and the 2-30 days-away-from-work categories, the decrease of 1.8% and the increase of 1.6% are not as significant.

  • The increase of 23% for the 31 or more days-away-from-work category is significant.

Displaying the Trending

Since I wanted to produce more specific trend data on the lost work day cases with 31 or more days away from work, I extracted the following indicators from the BLS reports.

This Exhibit 2 shows percent of days away from work cases involving 31 or more days away from work from 1995–2001, and projected for 2002 and 2003.

Exhibit 2: Percent of Days Away from Work Cases Involving 31 or More Days (available in full paper).

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