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January 22, 2003

Washington's workplaces continue to get safer

TUMWATER - Washington's job sites were safer in 2001, continuing a trend that began nearly a decade ago, according to survey results released by the Department of Labor & Industries.

The survey showed that 7.6 out of every 100 full-time workers in Washington suffered a job-related injury or illness in 2001. That is down from the 8.3 rate posted in 2000 - an 8.4 percent decline.

The newest figures represent a 33 percent decrease in workplace injuries and illnesses since 1992 when the rate in Washington was 11.3.

Also dropping in the latest survey was the rate of injuries serious enough that a worker had to miss work. In 2001, 3.3 of those 7.6 workers who were injured or became ill required time off from work or modified duties while they recovered. That rate is down from 3.5 in 2000.

"Our injury rate continues to drop, and it continues to drop more quickly than the national average," said L&I Director Gary Moore. "We have strategic goals to decrease our injury rate twice as fast as any decline in the national average. The latest survey results show we are making progress."

Washington's reported injury and illness rate remains higher than the national rate for 2001 of 5.7, which includes only private-sector employees. That rate dropped from 6.1 in 2000, a 6.5 percent decrease. (Washington's private-sector rate in 2001 was 7.8 per 100 full-time workers, an 8.2 percent decline from a rate of 8.5 the year before.)

Although the reported injury and illness rate for Washington has historically been higher than the reported national average, Moore said it is not clear what accounts for that difference. He said the rate of change within the state is a more reliable indicator of the success of government, employers and employees in making Washington workplaces safer.

Moore said the agency has three strategies for reducing the injury rate:

  • Focus on specific workplace hazards, such as ergonomics.
  • Focus on specific industries, such as residential framing.
  • Ensure that L&I has an impact on specific workplaces where staff members do enforcement and consultation work.

"Safer workplaces don't come without a lot of effort by both employers and workers," Moore said. "Protecting workers requires dedication and commitment. We are encouraged by the trend, but we must do more."

The report showed that all major industries except mining reported improved numbers in 2001. In retail trade, for instance, the injury and illness rate dropped 9.5 percent - from 8.4 in 2000 to 7.6 in 2001. As in the past, the construction industry's 13.2 rate accounted for the highest incident rate among all industries. Manufacturing, with a 10.4 rate, was next, followed by agriculture's 9.9 rate. The industry breakdown:

Industry 2001 2000 1999 1998
Construction 13.2 14.4 15.0 15.5
Manufacturing 10.4 11.1 12.1 13.2
Agriculture 9.9 10.9 11.3 12.9
Transportation 8.9 9.2 9.6 10.1
Wholesale Trade 8.0 8.7 9.2 9.3
Retail Trade 7.6 8.4 8.8 9.8
State and Local Government 7.1 7.7 8.2 7.9
Mining 6.1 4.8 5.7 6.7
Finance, Insurance and Real Estate 2.0 2.5 2.3 2.2

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

Year 1-10 workers 11-49 50-249 250-999 1000+
2001 5.0 7.7 8.9 6.6 5.2 
2000 5.6 8.0 9.3 7.6 6.1 
1999 5.8 8.6 10.3 7.2 6.8 
1998 5.2 9.0 10.7 8.6 7.3 

The numbers, the most current available, were provided through a survey of approximately 6,000 randomly selected Washington employers in cooperation with the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Results for 2002 will not be available until next January.

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For media information: Steve Pierce, L&I Public Affairs, 360-902-5412 or piet235@lni.wa.gov.

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