Are You Safe at Work? Number of U.S. Workers Suffer Workplace Illnesses, Injuries

August 31, 2005

Many Americans jeopardize their health simply by going to work, according to the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE).

The facts in the U.S. are cause for concern:

* 5,703 work-related fatalities were recorded in the United States in
2004, an increase of 2 percent from the number reported for 2003.
* A total of 4.4 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses were reported in
private industry workplaces during 2003.
* Each day, 137 workers die from work-related diseases.
* The estimated direct costs for occupational injuries and illnesses reached $40.1 billion in 1999, with over $200 billion of indirect costs.

The good news however, is that work-related injuries and illnesses are
preventable. A report released on Wednesday by CSTE in collaboration with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) provides some important data on workplace health risks, and data are fundamental for determining occupational illness and injury prevention priorities The CSTE report utilizes 19 occupational health indicators to provide a snapshot of the health of workers in 13 states, while providing a model for other states to do the same.

“The collaboration of these 13 states and the information provided through the occupational health indicators establish benchmarks for worker safety and health in the U.S., providing a roadmap for improving worker safety,” said CSTE President-Elect, Robert Harrison, M.D.

“Not only will strong information gathering protect the individual worker and the public at large, but the information from these health indicators can help workers and businesses find solutions that can reduce the number and cost of work-related diseases and injuries.”

Workers’ health can be compromised by a variety of factors, ranging from exposure to poisonous substances to poorly designed workspaces. Collecting information on worker health in a systematic way can help to identify trends in accidents or occupation-related illnesses, information which can inform future prevention efforts.

“State-based occupational injury and illness data have been indispensable drivers in efforts to identify and control occupational exposures to lead, asbestos, silica dust, and other hazards,”
said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “As scientists and policymakers address the emerging concerns of the 21st Century workplace, the need for state-based illness and injury surveillance will continue to grow.”

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