Okla Dept. of Labor: Lost-Time Injuries Drop Again

April 1, 2005

A report released by the Oklahoma Department of Labor identifies a 20% reduction in 2003 in the number of workers requiring time off to recover from workplace injuries. The latest figure further supports the benefit of workplace safety programs, according to Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Brenda Reneau.

“We know, without a doubt, that most injuries are preventable,” Reneau said. “This latest report points – yet again – to sprains and strains as the leading cause of work-related injuries involving days away from work. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal financial loss, increased business costs and reduced productivity were needlessly spent because safe work practices can prevent most soft tissue injuries.”

Soft tissue trauma was the leading cause of lost workday injuries and illnesses in 2003 for every major sub-industry category according to statistics gathered by the Oklahoma Department of Labor. As in 2001 and 2002, sprains and strains accounted for about 43 percent of all incidents in 2003.

The positive change is that the actual number of recorded incidents fell 20 percent totaling 5,700 in 2003 compared with 7,154 in 2002. Of these, 36 percent affected the trunk with about 20 percent identified as back injuries. Upper extremities (wrist, hand, finger) accounted for 21 percent of cases while lower extremities (knee, foot, toe) recorded 22 percent of all incidents.

One-third of all incidents involving days away from work (32.9%) required in excess of 31 days to recover from a workplace injury. The average injury involving lost work time resulted in 12 days away from work.

“Injuries don’t just hurt people,” Reneau said. “Lost productivity impacts a company’s bottom line and that adversely affects local economies. Lost time due to workplace accidents means reduced wages to the injured worker and high hidden costs for employers. The ripple effect spreads across the entire economic spectrum.”

Of the 13,450 job-related injuries and illnesses involving days-away-from-work, the Service Providing Sector accounted for 71 percent while the Goods Producing Sector recorded 29 percent.

Two sub-industry categories in the Service Providing Sector topped the list in 2003 for injuries involving days away from work. Trade, Transportation and Utilities accounted for 28 percent while Education and Health Services recorded 20 percent. Manufacturing, a sub-industry category in the Goods Producing Sector was third at 19 percent, about the same as in 2002.

Overexertion retained the top spot as the primary cause for workplace injuries involving days-away-from-work. Despite a 24 percent decline from 2002, Overexertion accounted for 26.5 percent or 3,570 of all lost-time injuries.

As in 2002, the second leading cause of lost-time injuries (19.6%) was contact with objects and equipment. The 2,640 “contact” incidents recorded in 2003 is a 37 percent reduction from the 4,181 incidents in 2002.

“Workplace safety and health programs dramatically reduce injuries, especially those that result in lost workdays,” Reneau said. “The state OSHA Consultation program Safety Pays has a proven track record of reducing injuries and lowering workers’ compensation costs. Our safety consultants and industrial hygienists are injury prevention specialists who set the standard for assisting employers and employees in eliminating workplace accidents.”

Safety Pays is a voluntary, non-punitive, confidential, free and guaranteed consultation service that assists employers in avoiding and even preventing a federal OSHA enforcement inspection. Safety Pays reportedly guarantees to lower workers’ comp costs and reduce injuries when the key elements of management commitment and employee involvement are the basis for a company’s safety and health program.

2003 days-away-from-work injury characteristics

GENDER: Men accounted for 63.5 percent or 8,540 of the 13,450 incidents recorded in 2003. The percentage is a drop from 70 percent recorded in 2002. Men led women in percent of days-away -from-work in every sub-industry category except Education and Health Services and Leisure and hospitality.

AGE: About one in four of all injuries resulting in days-away-from-work in 2003 were recorded in the age groups of 25 to 34 (24.5%), 35 to 44 (25.7%) and 45 to 54 (24%). The combined age group of 25 to 54 years (74.2 % of lost workday incidents) mirrors the 75 percent recorded for this age grouping in 2002 and 74 percent reported in 2001.

Workers age 55 years and older accounted for 10.4 percent of all injuries involving days-away-from-work, up from 9.3 percent in 2002. Of these, 38 percent required 31 days or more to recover. On average, this age group took 15 days to recover from a work-related injury.

The percentage of lost workday injuries to younger workers, 16 to 19-year olds, increased negligibly in 2003 totaling 540 incidents (0.78%↑) after three straight years of decline. The injuries sustained by this age group appear to be more serious than their more experienced counterparts since 310 (57.4%) of 16 to 19-year olds injured at work required 31 days or more to recover. This group took, on average, 45 days work-related leave.

OCCUPATION: Transportation and material moving holds the top spot among major occupational groups accounting for 2,570 incidents or 19 percent of all injuries resulting in days-away-from-work. Production is second at 2,020 incidents or 15 percent. Construction and extraction follows in third with 1,300 incidents or 10 percent with Healthcare support in fourth reporting 1,270 incidents or 9 percent.

Looking at selected worker occupations, Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants regained the distinction as the most hazardous job after losing that status in 2002 to truck drivers. These healthcare professionals recorded eight percent or 1,080 lost workday incidents in 2003 to lead among all lost workday injuries. Meanwhile, Truck drivers, heavy and tractor-trailer tied for second with Laborers and freight, stock and material movers, hand as the most hazardous job. Each recorded 880 injuries per occupation or 7 percent of all lost workday incidents.

LENGTH OF SERVICE: About 1 in 4 workers (25.8%) with more than 5 years on the job recorded an injury involving days-away-from-work in 2003, about the same as the previous year. Workers with less than 11 months on the job accounted for 5,010 or 37.2 percent of cases in 2003, mirroring 2002 statistics. The figure points to the importance of employee retention in reducing workplace accidents.

RACE OR ETHNIC ORIGIN: White workers recorded 54.1 percent of all incidents in 2003, up from about 50 percent in 2002. Black employees accounted for 9.4 percent of the total in 2003, up from 4.5 percent the previous year. Hispanic worker injuries declined for a second year in a row accounting for 6.3 percent of incidents in 2003, down slightly from 6.6 percent in 2002 and 6.9 percent in 2001. Unfortunately, race or ethnic origin information was either not available or not collected on 25.7 percent of incidents. Employers are not required and, in some instances, are prohibited from requesting this information.

TIME OF EVENT, DAY OF WEEK: One-third (33.4%) of all injuries and illnesses resulting in days away from work occurred between 8:01 a.m. and 12:00 noon in 2003. The period of 12:01 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. was second at 25.1 percent of incidents. About 13 percent of lost workday injuries occurred between midnight and 8:00 a.m. while almost 15 percent occurred between 4:00 p.m. and midnight. The time of event was not reported in 14 percent of cases.

Oklahomans who experienced a lost workday accident in 2003 had a better than 1 in 5 chance of being injured on Monday (21.1%) while Tuesday was close behind at 19.8 percent. Wednesday accounted for 15.6 percent of incidents followed by Friday at 15.2 percent and Thursday at 13.8 percent. Workers injured on Friday required the longest recuperation time, 42.4 days on average compared to both Tuesday and Thursday at 18.2 days. Among all injuries, 23.3 percent occurred to workers who had been on the job between 2 hours to less than 4 hours.

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