Rising Workplace Injuries in 2021The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) examines employer-reported injuries and illnesses each year and compiles the data to track workplace safety and workers’ compensation claims. These reports are important to Ohio workers and employers because they provide a snapshot of how people are getting hurt and killed at work and what trends we should be on the lookout for. Let's consider the reports for 2021, which were released at the end of 2022.

Illnesses Were Down, but Injuries Were Up in 2021

The data from 2021 shows that injuries are on the rise after falling in 2020, likely because fewer employees were in the workplace due to Covid-19. However, illnesses that caused workers to miss at least one day of work fell between 2020 and 2021, also likely due to having better control of Covid. Overall, there were 2.6 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses reported by private-sector employers in 2021. That was a nearly 10 percent drop from 2020, owing to a drop in illnesses from 544,600 to 365,200.

espiratory illnesses—which include Covid-19—were cut in half between 2020 and 2021.

After a significant drop in on-the-job injuries between 2019 and 2020, 132,000 more people were injured at work in 2021 than in 2020. This is probably explained by people returning to the workplace in 2021, and it is still significantly lower than the number of injuries reported in 2019.

Which Sectors Are Seeing the Most Workplace Injuries?

The top five industry sectors for total illness and injury rates remain fairly constant from year to year, but the health care industry—not surprisingly—took a big hit during the pandemic and its aftermath. A breakdown of data from the BLS shows:

  1. Health care and social assistance. 2020 was a bad year for both illnesses and injuries among health care workers. This is not surprising considering that they were run into the ground caring for Covid patients and were exposed to illness at much higher rates. 2021 saw a big decrease in illness and injury in this sector, but it did not return to 2019 levels. Within the industry, workers in nursing homes and residential care facilities fared the worst.
  2. Retail. The retail industry saw one of the biggest jumps in illness and industry of all sectors between 2020 and 2021. Injury and illness rates were higher in 2021 than they were in 2019, indicating that labor shortages and customer demand have been hard on retail workers.
  3. Manufacturing. The manufacturing industry, despite being the third most dangerous occupation, did better in 2021 than in pre-pandemic 2019, although there were more reported injuries than in 2020.
  4. Transportation and warehousing. Like retail, and probably for the same reasons, this sector saw a big jump between 2020 and 2021 and had more injuries and illnesses combined in 2021 than in 2019.
  5. Professional, scientific, and technical services. Despite ranking in fifth place, the number of injuries and illnesses in this industry is low compared to the top four. However, it also saw an increase in 2021 after a drop in 2020.

At the bottom of the list for injury and illness rates were—in decreasing order—arts and entertainment, agriculture and fishing, hospitality, education, utilities, and wholesale trade.

Fatal Workplace Injuries Have Been Fairly Stable Over the Last Decade

The BLS also looks at fatal work injuries each year and, after a drop in 2020 despite the Covid-19 pandemic, 2021 saw a return to where we have been for the last few years. In 2021, there were 5,190 fatal work injuries recorded. This is the highest fatal occupational rate we have seen since 2016, but the fatal work injury rate has remained stable at around 3.5 fatalities for every 100,000 full-time workers each year since 2011. The leading causes of workplace fatalities have also remained consistent for the last five years:

  1. Transportation incidents: 1,982 deaths in 2021
  2. Falls, slips, and trips: 850 deaths in 2021
  3. Violence and injuries by people or animals: 761 deaths in 2021
  4. Exposure to harmful substances or environments: 798 deaths in 2021
  5. Contact with objects and equipment: 705 deaths in 2021

These accidents can happen to workers in any industry.

You Are Not a Statistic: Get Help From Monast Law Office

According to BLS data, only about 2.3 out of every 100 workers are injured at work each year. That’s a small number, but statistics don’t mean a thing when you are one of those two or three people.

With over 30 years of experience as a workers' comp attorney in Ohio, I have helped people suffering from many injuries get the compensation they deserved. Contact Monast Law Office to discover how we can help you. Learn more by requesting a free copy of our book, The Worker's Guide to Injury Compensation in Ohio, then fill out our online contact form or call our Upper Arlington office at 614-334-4649 to get started.




James Monast
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Board-Certified Workers’ Compensation Attorney in Columbus, Ohio
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