Workplace injuries and illnesses drop to historic low

2013-11-07T17:37:00Z 2013-11-07T18:41:09Z Workplace injuries and illnesses drop to historic lowJoseph S. Pete joseph.pete@nwi.com, (219) 933-3316 nwitimes.com
November 07, 2013 5:37 pm  • 

Injuries and illnesses suffered at Indiana workplaces fell by 7 percent last year, marking the first time the rate has declined since 2009.

In fact, Indiana's nonfatal occupational injury and illness rate dropped to the lowest rate on record since the government first started the employer survey in its current form, back in 1992. About four out of every 100 workers in the state sustained an injury or illness while on the job in 2012, according to the Indiana Department of Labor.

Indiana, however, continued to lag behind the nation in workplace safety. Nationally, the on-the-job injury and illness rate was 3.4 per 100 workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"While this historically low number of workplace injuries in Indiana is indeed an accomplishment, we still have work to do and will continue to focus on reducing the number of workplace injuries in Indiana," said Rick Ruble, labor commissioner. "The Department of Labor will continue to actively work with employers through our many safety programs to continue to improve employee safety and health in Indiana."

Recently, the Indiana Department of Labor has been focusing on improving workplace safety in the fields of health care, agriculture and transportation. The health care sector has grown to become the second-biggest employer in the state, while agriculture has the highest percentage of injuries and transportation accounts for the most fatal accidents.

Agricultural injuries and illnesses fell 24.2 percent last year compared to 2011. Injuries and illnesses declined by 15.9 percent in health care and dipped by 2.2 percent in transportation.

Most major Indiana industries saw a reduction in nonfatal injuries and illnesses last year, except for manufacturing. Indiana most heavily depends on manufacturing of any state, as measured by percentage of workforce. Northwest Indiana, with its massive steel mills and oil refinery, is one of the most heavily industrialized areas in the country.

Statewide, worker injuries and illnesses rose by about 2 percent in the manufacturing industry last year. The rate ticked up to 5.3 per 100 workers, as compared to 5.2 per 100 workers the previous year.

Steelmaking, Northwest Indiana's signature industry, was less hazardous on average than other manufacturing categories, with 4.5 instances of injury or illness per 100 workers. But most of those injuries or illnesses took place sometime after the steel was shipped out of the mills.

The rate of injuries and illnesses in the steel mills themselves was 1.9 percent 100 workers, less than half the state average as a whole for all types of workplaces.

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