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December 17, 1998

Washington worksites slightly safer in 1997 than 1996

TUMWATER - Washington workers suffered fewer injuries and illnesses in 1997 than they did the previous year, according to a survey released today by the Washington Department of Labor & Industries.

The overall 1997 workplace injury and illness rate indicates that Washington workplaces were marginally safer than in 1996, continuing a four-year trend of modest improvement. The 1997 numbers are the lowest in more than a decade.

But generally speaking, Washington workers still suffer job-related injuries and illnesses at a higher rate than the national average.

"We're encouraged by the trend of continuing improvement," L&I Director Gary Moore said. "It shows that we're doing something right, but at the same time there's much to be done since we still exceed the national averages."

The survey showed that 9.6 out of every 100 full-time workers in Washington suffered a job-related injury or illness in 1997. That number was 10.0 in 1996.

In addition, every four of those 9.6 workers who were injured or became ill in 1997 required time off from work or modified duties to recover. That number was unchanged from 1996.

The numbers are less encouraging for some high-hazard industries. In the construction industry, for example, 17.3 of every 100 workers were injured or became ill as a result of their jobs. This is down from the 17.6 rate in 1996, but still ranks above the national average.

In shipbuilding, where 56 out of every 100 workers were injured in 1996, the number dropped to 39.8 in 1997. Those high rates have prompted the department to launch a joint emphasis effort with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration to improve worker safety and health in shipbuilding and repair yards.

One encouraging area is agriculture (including forestry and fishing) where the 1997 rate was 11.2, down from 1996's 12.2 rate. This represents the lowest rate in Washington since 1972, the first year that records were kept.

Once again, the construction industry's 17.3 rate accounted for the highest incident rate among all industries. Manufacturing, with a 13.5 rate was next, followed by agriculture's 11.2 rate. As in past years, these three industries recorded the highest rates. The industry breakdown:

Industry 1997 1996
Construction 17.3 17.6
Manufacturing 13.5 13.2
Agriculture 11.2 12.2
Transportation 10.4 10.2
Wholesale Trade 9.6 10.0
Retail Trade 9.3 10.6
State & Local Government 8.1 7.9
Services 7.1 8.1
Mining 6.7 5.7
Finance, Insurance & Real Estate 2.8 2.8

Another breakdown of the numbers shows that those businesses employing between 50 and 249 workers had the highest injury rate, continuing a historic pattern. The breakdown:

Year 1-10
workers
11-49
workers
50-249
workers
250-999
workers
1000+
workers
1997 7.2 9.7 10.7 8.6 7.0
1996 7.6 9.7 11.1 9.5 7.0

The numbers, the most current available, were provided through a survey of approximately 6,200 randomly selected Washington employers in cooperation with the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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