Job Injuries and Illnesses Drop Slightly in 2014

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

Job Injuries and Illnesses Drop Slightly in 2014

Being a nurse – in a hospital or a nursing home – is hazardous to your health. So is being a specialty construction worker. So is being a police officer or fire fighter. So is being a restaurant worker. And so, surprisingly, is being a school teacher.

Those are among the occupations with either the most injuries and illnesses on the job or the highest rates of injury and illness per 100 workers in 2014, the Labor Department says. .

Data from its Census of Non-Fatal Occupational Injuries and Illnesses shows 3.3 workers out of every 100 were either hurt or got sick on the job enough last year that they had to take days off to recuperate or firms had to shift them to accommodate their return to work.

The 3.3 per 100 injury-illness rate for all workers continues a long-term decline, down from five per 100 in 2003 and 3.4 per 100 in 2013, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said. But public workers – police, firefighters and teachers -- are another story: Five of every 100 got sick or injured on the job last year; BLS does not have 2003 historical data for that group.

And within the public workers last year, hospital, nursing home and public safety workers had much higher injury and illness rates, while the teachers had sheer large numbers.

BLS said 12.6 of every 100 state nursing home workers – one of every eight – was injured or became ill on the job last year. That was the highest rate of any single occupation. And 7.4 of every 100 local government nursing home workers got hurt or sick, as did 7.1 per 100 of private nursing home workers. That was the second-highest rate for any private job.

Hospital workers didn’t fare much better: 5.7 injuries and illnesses per 100 local public hospital workers, 8.7 per 100 for state hospitals and 6.2 per 100 for private-sector hospitals.

One violent 2014 attack, which injured nurses and security officers at St. John’s State Hospital in Minnesota, symbolizes that data. It also led AFSCME District Council 5 there to wage a long and successful legislative campaign to make such attacks felonies.

The injury and illness rate for local police and firefighters was almost as high: 9.5 per 100 workers last year. It was 6.1 per 100 for state police and firefighters, BLS added.

An on-the-job injury in New Jersey this month illustrated that hazard for firefighters. The International Association of Fire Fighters reported that while fighting a fire in Elmwood Park, N.J., on Oct. 29, a volunteer firefighter there went into cardiac arrest. He was rushed to the hospital and reported in stable condition after emergency surgery.

In sheer numbers of illnesses and injuries, hospital workers and teachers led the list. Of the 3.676 million workers nationally who were injured or became ill on the job last year, 222,300 were hospital workers, and 217,300 were teachers. 

Next were the bar and restaurant workers (192,100), private – not public – nursing home workers (177,000) and specialty construction workers (132,900).        

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