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U.S. workplace injuries and illnesses rise in 2022, with an increase in respiratory illnesses

The 2022 BLS report on workplace injuries and illnesses serves as a wake-up call, revealing a significant uptick in nonfatal incidents.
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According to the latest data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there has been a significant increase in reported nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2022. The report highlights a 7.5% rise from 2021, with a total of 2.8 million cases noted in private industry sectors.

One of the most striking aspects of the report is the substantial increase in reported illnesses, which jumped by 26.1% to 460,700 cases. This surge is primarily attributed to a 35.4% increase in respiratory illnesses, which totaled 365,000 cases in 2022. This rise is particularly noteworthy following a decline in respiratory illnesses in 2021.

The BLS report also sheds light on the nature of these workplace incidents. Over the two-year period of 2021-2022, there were 2.2 million cases involving days away from work (DAFW), representing 66.5% of the total cases that involved days away from work, job restriction, or transfer (DART). Moreover, 1.1 million cases involved days of job transfer or restriction (DJTR), accounting for 33.5% of total DART cases.

In a first-of-its-kind effort, the BLS release includes detailed biennial estimates for DAFW and DJTR by case characteristics and worker demographics, offering a more comprehensive view of workplace injuries and illnesses management. This new data series aims to provide insights into how injuries and illnesses are distributed across different industries and demographic groups.

The report further breaks down the data by industry, occupation, and type of event or exposure. Notably, transportation and material moving occupations experienced the highest number of DART cases among major occupation groups, with a total of 835,040 injuries and illnesses reported over the 2021-2022 period. Overexertion and bodily reaction were the leading causes of DART cases, totaling 1,001,440 cases.

In terms of age groups, individuals aged 25 to 34 were most affected, with 759,560 DART cases reported in this demographic. Additionally, the report highlights significant increases in respiratory illnesses in specific sectors such as private health care and social assistance, as well as grocery stores.

The BLS notes that this release is part of a series of reports on occupational safety and health statistics for the calendar year 2023. A forthcoming release on December 19, 2023, will focus on fatal occupational injuries.

This comprehensive report underscores the ongoing challenges in maintaining workplace safety and health, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The detailed breakdown of injuries and illnesses by industry, occupation, and demographic factors is intended to guide policymakers, employers, and workers in developing more targeted strategies for workplace safety.

The increase in respiratory illnesses, likely influenced by the pandemic, highlights the need for continued vigilance and adaptation of safety protocols in various industries.

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