November 2009, Vol. 131, No. 11
Excerpt from the Errata:
To the Editor:
This refers to the article titled “An international analysis of workplace injuries,” by Al-Amin Ussif that appeared in the March 2004 issue of the Monthly Labor Review (http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2004/03/art3full.pdf).
In the article, the author discusses occupational injury data for the United States, Canada, Finland, France, and Sweden and draws cross-country comparisons. On page 44, he gives both the BLS and ILO as sources (see end of Chart 1) and states that “the sources of the data are different, but are comparable.” Our analysis indicates that these are false statements. We believe that fundamental inconsistencies in the data preclude meaningful comparisons, not only of levels but also of trends in the data. At a minimum, the author should have discussed limitations of the data. Furthermore, the U.S. data series is presented incorrectly. (Jeffery Brown, an Economist in the BLS Office of Compensation and Working Conditions, Division of Safety and Health Statistics, provided the information about the U.S. data series.) Below is a more detailed analysis of these and other points.
Source data cited incorrectly. All data are from ILO; BLS is listed as a source incorrectly on Chart 1. BLS does not publish international data on occupational injuries; therefore, data for Canada, Finland, France, and Sweden are clearly from ILO. The U.S. data are not directly from BLS; the series graphed by the author shows an unusual trend not characteristic of the occupational injury series published by BLS. The ILO series on U.S. occupational injuries data, however, shows the same unusual trend (as discussed further below), so we conclude that the U.S. data were taken from ILO rather than directly from BLS. In fact, footnote 8 of the article states that “The data employed in this analysis are obtained from the International Labor Office Web site: www.laborsta.ilo.org.” This contradicts the author’s source note on Chart 1, which sources BLS directly.
International data are not comparable. ILO metadata show that occupational injury data are not strictly comparable across the five countries. For example, type of injuries–whether reported or compensated–has a significant impact on comparisons across countries. Thus, data for the U.S. and Sweden, which are based on reported injuries, should not be compared with those of Canada, Finland, and France, since these are based on insurance claims. Table 1 provides an overview of the various differences in coverage for the five countries.
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