I want to draw your attention to an exciting new pilot study being conducted by the BLS Occupational Safety and Health Statistics program. Through the annual Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, we are collecting new data on the circumstances and worker characteristics for cases where an injured or ill worker can continue to work but needs days of job transfer or restricted work to recuperate. BLS published the 2012 results for six selected industry subsectors this week. The 2011 results were published in April 2013.
Survey data on nonfatal work injuries and illnesses have been collected for more than 40 years since President Richard Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970. Over that 40-year period the survey has evolved with several innovations. Initially the survey was set up to report on summary statistics for the private sector only. (State and local governments were added in later years.) In 1992, a major innovation occurred when BLS began collecting data on the details of occupational injuries and illnesses that required days away from work—at that time considered the most severe type of nonfatal injury and illness cases. This was important because it was the first time employers, workers, policymakers, and safety and health researchers had comprehensive information about the circumstances leading to injuries and illnesses and the characteristics of the injured or ill workers. In the years following 1992, it became apparent that a second class of cases—days of job transfer or restriction—were becoming more prevalent. While the total number of cases decreased, the distribution shifted, with fewer cases involving days away from work and more cases with days of job transfer or restriction. However, only summary statistics were available for cases with days of job transfer or restriction, and we could not answer certain questions about the cases. For example, were employers simply shifting cases from one type to the other? Do cases with days of job transfer or restriction involve different types of injuries and illnesses than cases with days away from work? Are certain occupations more likely to have one type of case or the other?
BLS is exploring the possibility of collecting comprehensive data on the details of circumstances and worker characteristics for cases involving days of job transfer or restriction. Beginning with the 2011 pilot study covering six industry subsectors, we are learning more about the mix of the circumstances leading to those types of cases. We are also learning what challenges there are in collecting these new data, such as how collecting information on days away from work may be affected by also collecting information on days of job transfer or restriction. Understanding the case circumstances can improve efforts to continue the downward trend of occupational injuries and illnesses in the United States.