Work-related Incidence Rate Trends

Total recordable incidence rate decreases 3.6% in 2020 even as illness cases spike!

The COVID pandemic has dramatically impacted the number and rate of nonfatal injuries and illnesses in 2020. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that private industry employers reported 2.7 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2020, down from 2.8 million in 2019, a decrease of 5.7%. The incidence rate per 100 full-time equivalent workers also decreased from 2.8 to 2.7 in 2020, a decrease of 3.6%. These estimates are from the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII).

The decline in injury and illness cases and rates were due to a drop in injury cases, with private industry employers reporting 2.1 million nonfatal injuries in 2020, down from 2.7 million in 2019. At the same time, total reported illness cases more than quadrupled to 544,600 cases, up from 127,200 cases in 2019. This increase was driven by a nearly 4,000% increase in employer reported respiratory illness cases in 2020 at 428,700, up from 10,800 in 2019. The injury rate decreased 15.4% from 2.6 in 2019 to 2.2 cases per 100 full-time equivalent workers in 2020. Over the same period, the rate of illness cases increased 350% from 12.4 cases per 10,000 full-time equivalent workers to 55.9 cases in 2020. This increase was driven by the rise in the respiratory illness rate, which rose from 1.1 cases per 10,000 full-time equivalent workers to 44.0.

There were 1,176,340 nonfatal injuries and illnesses that caused a private industry worker to miss at least one day of work in 2020, 32.4% higher than in 2019. Of these cases, 33.2% (390,020 cases) were categorized as other diseases due to viruses not elsewhere classified, which includes reported COVID-19-pandemic related illnesses.

Three of the five private sector occupational injury and illness incidence rates published by BLS for 2020 decreased from 2019, while two increased substantially.

The incidence rate for total Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recordable cases decreased from 2.8 per 100 full-time workers in 2019 to 2.7 in 2020 (-3.6%). The incidence rate for cases with job transfer or restriction decreased from 0.7 in 2019 to 0.5 in 2020 (-28.6%). Also, the other recordable cases rate decreased from 1.2 in 2019 to 1.0 in 2020 (-16.7%).

The incidence rate for the most serious injury and illnesses, cases with days away from work, increased from 0.9 in 2019 to 1.2 per 100 full-time equivalent workers in 2020 (+33.3%). This increase drove a 13.3% increase in the rate of cases with days away, restricted, or transferred (DART) from work from 1.5 in 2019 to 1.7 in 2020.

There have been several changes that affect comparability of incidence rates from year to year. The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) replaced the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system beginning with the 2003 survey of occupational injuries and illnesses. Revisions to OSHA’s occupational injury and illness recordkeeping requirements went into effect in 2002. Beginning with 1992, BLS revised its annual survey to include only nonfatal cases and stopped publishing the incidence rate of lost workdays.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Note: Beginning in 1992, all rates are for nonfatal cases only. Changes in OSHA recordkeeping requirements in 2002 affect comparison with earlier years.