Workplace Safety Trends: Injuries Are Up; Workers Are Filing Claims Earlier

March 20, 2023
By Sue Doerfler

Workplace safety has long been a concern for manufacturers, warehouse and distribution center operators and other companies along the supply chain.

The rate of injury cases increased in 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), with private industry employers reporting 2.3 cases per 100 full-time employees, up from 2.2 cases in 2020. Transportation and warehousing were among the private industries registering the highest increases in injuries and illness, with 253,100 cases in 2021, up from 206,900 in 2020.

"Strains to muscles, nerves and tendons are some of the most frequent injuries employees experience at work,” Scott Smith, vice president, director of safety management at Selective Insurance, said in a press release. “Many times, they are preventable with some ergonomic changes to our behaviors, such as when lifting heavy objects or performing repetitive tasks."

The Branchville, New Jersey-based insurance company conducted a 10-year study of workplace injury trends, finding that injuries are being reported earlier into a worker’s tenure. Employees filed a workers’ compensation claim on average after 5.2 years of service in 2021, 18 percent earlier than the 6.4 years of service in 2011.

In the manufacturing/wholesalers area, claims were filed 480 days (1.3 years) earlier in 2021, compared to 2011. The top three types of injuries were strains (27.2 percent of claims); cuts, punctures or scrapes (18.6 percent) and getting struck (16.4 percent).

Worker attendance also is a concern in manufacturing and warehousing, evidenced during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, when infected workers stayed home while they recovered. In the private industry transportation and warehousing sector, according to the BLS, the days away from work (DAFW) rate increased 23 percent to 122,700 cases in 2021 from 99,800 cases in 2020. However, in the private industry food manufacturing, DAFW decreased 15.1 percent from 2.5 cases per 100 full-time employees in 2020 to 2.1 cases the following year.

Work-related fatalities also grew in 2021 in the U.S., but were lower than before the coronavirus pandemic, according to the BLS. In 2021, there were 5,190 fatal work injuries, an 8.9 percent from 4,764 in 2020 but a 2.7 percent decrease from 5,333 in 2019.

(Photo credit: Getty Images/Fertnig)

About the Author

Sue Doerfler

About the Author

As Senior Writer for Inside Supply Management® magazine, I cover topics, trends and issues relating to supply chain management.