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May 2006, Vol. 129, No. 5
Multiyear nonfatal work injury rates
Michael R. Pergamit and Parvati Krishnamurty
Every year, millions of Americans are injured on the job. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS; the Bureau), in 2004 alone, more than 4 million workers suffered a workplace injury or illness, the vast majority of which were injuries.1 Just over half of these injuries and illnesses involved lost days of work or days of job transfer or restricted work. The annual numbers, however, tell only part of the story. An important question is, How many workers have ever been injured on the job? Occupational safety and health data collected from business establishments do not provide an answer to that question. This article takes a first step toward answering the question by using an unexploited data source on work injuries: the 1979 cohort of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79).2
Examining nonfatal workplace injury rates from the NLSY79 in 8 of the years from 1988 to 1998,3 the article finds that, over the entire 8 years studied, the overall injury rate for those responding in any of the 8 years was 27.6 percent, indicating that more than a quarter of the sample was injured at least once during those years. The article also finds that (1) a large proportion of injuries resulted in restricted or lost workdays and (2) there are significant differences in injury rates by sex, education level, and, in some cases, race or ethnicity.
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1 "Workplace Injuries and Illnesses in 2004," BLS press release, Nov. 17, 2005.
2 The NLSY79 is the only national survey that covers all types of workplace injuries, including nondisabling and injuries for which no claim was submitted. (See R. T. Reville, Jayanta Bhattacharya, and L. R. Sager Weinstein, "New Methods and Data Sources for Measuring Economic Consequences of Workplace Injuries," American Journal of Industrial Medicine, vol. 40, 2001, pp. 452–63.)
3 In 1991, the NLSY79 did not ask questions about injuries, and in 1995 and 1997, no survey was conducted.
Related BLS programs
Injuries, Illnesses, and
National Longitudinal Survey
safety and health statistics: new data for a new century.—Oct.
Occupational injury and illness rates, 1992-96: why they fell.—Nov. 1998.
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