Public Workers Require More Days Off Due to Injuries Than Private Workers

November 11, 2010

Local and state government workers have much higher rates of injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work than workers in private industry, the government reported.

The rate among local and state government workers was 180 to 185 cases per 10,000 full-time workers compared to 106 cases for private firms.

This is the first time incidence rates for public workers have exceeded those for private industry.

Overall, for public and private employees, the number of reported nonfatal occupational injury and illness cases that required days away from work to recuperate decreased by nine percent to 1,238,490 cases in 2009 for private industry, state government and local government, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The total incidence rate decreased by five percent in 2009 to 117 cases per 10,000 full-time workers.

Musculoskeletal disorders continued for the second year in a row to comprise almost 30 percent of all workplace injuries and illnesses requiring time away from work.

Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, said the overall decline might have to do with the economy.

“Although it is encouraging to see a reduction in the total number of days away from work for injuries and illnesses suffered by workers in 2009, we know that economic conditions may have weighed heavily on the decline. Specifically, a decrease in employment and total hours worked, especially in construction and manufacturing, has led to fewer workers exposed to safety and health hazards in the workplace.,” he said

He said that as the economy improves and more Americans are rehired, work-related illnesses could rise.

As for the public sector, Michaels said the numbers show a high occurrence among many public employee occupations, particularly among transit and intercity bus drivers, law enforcement officers, emergency response workers, and nursing aides and orderlies.

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