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December 20, 2000

Washington worksites continued safety trend in 1999

TUMWATER - Washington workers suffered slightly fewer injuries and illnesses in 1999 than they did the previous year, continuing an eight-year trend of steady improvement, according to survey results released today by the Washington Department of Labor & Industries.

The overall 1999 workplace injury and illness rate indicates that Washington workplaces were marginally safer than during 1998. Significantly, the numbers continued to drop to the lowest point 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.

"This certainly is encouraging news," L&I Director Gary Moore said. "The reduction isn't as large as we'd prefer, but the trend of occupational safety and health in Washington is headed in the right direction."

The survey showed that 8.9 out of every 100 full-time workers in Washington suffered a job-related injury or illness in 1999, down from the 9.2 rate posted in 1998. This rate was as high as 11.3 as recently as 1992. Since that time there has been steady, incremental improvement.

"But even as we report these encouraging numbers, we must point out that Washington lags behind national averages," Moore said. "We must take our continuing downward trend and build upon it, making Washington workplaces safer and more healthful."

The federal rate - which includes only private-sector employees - was 6.3 per 100 full-time workers in 1999. Washington's private-sector rate was 9.0 per 100 full-time workers.

Additionally, 3.7 of those 8.9 workers who were injured or became ill in 1999 required time off from work or modified duties to recover. Again, that number was a slight improvement from the 3.9 rate posted in 1998.

All major industrial categories except state and local government, and finance, insurance and real estate reported improved numbers in 1999. In construction, for instance, the injury and illness rate dropped from 15.5 workers in 1998 to 15.0 in 1999. In the sub-category of shipbuilding, the injury rate dropped from 29.2 in 1998 to 22.6 in 1999.

Once again, as in years past, the construction industry's 15.0 rate accounted for the highest incident rate among all industries. Manufacturing, with a 12.1 rate was next, followed by agriculture's 11.3 rate. As in past years, these three industries recorded the highest rates. The industry breakdown:

Industry 1999 1998 1997 1996
Construction 15.0 15.5 17.3 17.6
Manufacturing 12.1 13.2 13.5 13.2
Agriculture 11.3 12.9 11.2 12.2
Transportation 9.6 10.1 10.4 10.2
Wholesale Trade 9.2 9.3 9.6 10.0
Retail Trade 8.8 9.8 9.3 10.6
State & Local
Government
8.2 7.9 8.1 7.9
Mining 5.7 6.7 6.7 5.7
Finance, Insurance
& Real Estate
2.3 2.2 2.8 2.8

 

Another breakdown 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
1999 5.8 8.6 10.3 7.2 6.8
1998 5.2 9.0 10.7 8.6 7.3
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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