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December 2004, Vol. 127, No.12
Occupational injury and illness: new recordkeeping requirements
William J. Wiatrowski
In 2002, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) implemented a number of changes in the definitions of injury and illness cases recorded by employers. The new definitions in turn resulted in changes in occupational injury and illness statistics provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As an example, in one change, the old definition considered the application of a butterfly bandage to be medical treatment and a recordable case; the new definition considers such treatment to be first aid and not recordable. Using the new definitions, the BLS reported that there were 4.7 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses in private-industry workplaces in 2002, resulting in a rate of 5.3 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers.1 While these data follow the trend of declining cases and rates seen throughout the past decade, because of the change in definition they cannot be compared with data from prior years.
When the first data from 2002 were released in late 2003, the BLS cautioned readers of the differences between the 2002 data and data from previous years and discouraged year-to-year comparisons. Because employers were following the new rules when recording cases throughout 2002, there was no way that two sets of data (one maintained under the old rules, the other under the new rules) could be captured. Nonetheless, data users are interested in the relationship of 2002 data to data from past years. For example, among the questions they might want answered are, Did the 10-year trend of reduced injuries and illnesses continue in 2002? and What effect did the change in recordkeeping rules have on the data?
This article provides background on the BLS survey and the change in the recordkeeping rule. Both 2002 data and data from earlier years are examined to determine what patterns might be uncovered. While it will never be possible to identify the rate of change in injuries and illnesses from 2001 to 2002, it may be possible to identify some patterns between the old and new data. These patterns may provide insight into how the change in recordkeeping affected estimates of occupational injuries and illnesses. With only 1 year of data under the new recordkeeping requirements, compared with 30 years under the old system, this analysis should be thought of as an initial attempt to identify patterns and trends. As more years of data collected under the new rules become available, patterns and trends are likely to become clearer.
This excerpt is from an article published in the December 2004 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 See "Workplace Injuries and Illnesses in 2002," U.S. Department of Labor news release 03–913, Dec. 18, 2003. Injury and illness rates represent the number of injuries and illnesses per 100 full-time workers and are calculated by multiplying the number of injuries and illnesses by the total hours worked by all employees during the calendar year. This result is then divided by 200,000 (100 workers, times 40 hours per week, times 50 weeks per year) to determine the rate per 100 equivalent full-time workers.
Related BLS programs
Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities
Improvements in the BLS safety and health statistical system.—Apr. 1996.
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