On-the-Job Injuries Data
Reporting of injuries is required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)external icon for any organization with more than 10 employees. In addition to injuries sustained on-site, employers often collect data associated with near-accidents and near-misses. Accidents may or may not result in an injury.
For example, a shelf could collapse and fall onto someone, or the shelf could collapse and not hit anyone.
Accidents that do not result in injury are often called “near-misses.” This data can show weaknesses and areas for improvement in the workplace environment and safety policies. Tracking injury-related data over time can show improvement in safety in the workplace.
To properly identify health risks and hazards from the work environment that may cause occupational disease or injury and institute prevention and control measures for these risks, employers can implement a system to collect, analyze, and interpret occupational disease and injury control information. This system involves collecting data from many sources including workplace inspections, measurement and evaluation of exposure, examination of workers, record keeping, and reporting of health effects and exposures for acute (when the time between exposure and disease or injury is short) or chronic conditions (e.g., resulting from repeated exposure).
Direct observation of the work environment through a workplace inspection is an important source of data. Inspections can be conducted 1) on a regular and routine basis to identify hazards; 2) following an incident or accident resulting in injury to identify cause(s) and; 3) when someone at the workplace requests an inspection due to a suspicion of a health or safety hazard. Inspections can be performed by a variety of individuals including workers; health and safety professionals; engineers; external agencies, such as regulatory agencies; insurance providers; corporate officials; or union representatives. Because of their familiarity with the worksite and work environment, workers are good sources of environmental health and safety risk information and may provide information not found in formal records (e.g., OSHA) or workers compensation claims. However, the information workers provide should not substitute for a professional evaluation of the workplace practices and the work environment by an industrial hygienist or ergonomist.1
Variables of interest when examining injury data include:
- Looking at the most common types of injuries (e.g., burns, cuts, sprains, bruises, fractures)
- Looking at the severity of injury and resulting workers compensation or disability claims and costs and the number of days the employee could not work
- Looking at the most common areas of the body that were injured (e.g., hands, shoulders, head, etc)
- Looking at the cause of injury (e.g., falls, slips, body position, struck by flying object)
- Looking at injury rates by shift (e.g., time of injury)
- Looking at the frequency of injury per shift, per day, and per employee. For example, the company has 1 injury resulting in medical attention every 45 days. Or the rate of near misses is 1 for every 50 employees over the past year
- Looking at injury rates by sex, age, job type
- Review of OSHA or other logs of recorded accidents that resulted in injury or near misses that did not result in injury by may present a safety hazard
- Review of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) containing information that describes the short and long-term health effects, physical and chemical properties, flammability, safety hazards, and emergency response procedures in case of overexposure of products used in industry. MSDS are available to the employer through the product’s manufacturer or supplier. This information should be use to train employees about the materials they are working with and clearly label the products to bring attention and awareness to the health and safety risks the product may pose
An analysis of injury data can examine patterns, rate changes, and trends over time.
For example, are injuries more common among specific demographics groups (e.g., older adults or men); do they seem to occur at the same times (e.g., middle of the night in a 24 hour facility); are certain injuries related to specific job tasks; or which injuries are the highest cost (e.g., injuries resulting in knee replacement)?
For employees who log many hours at a workstation, ergonomic-related problems resulting in musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) may be an issue. Ergonomics is the scientific study of people at work. The goal of ergonomics is to reduce stress and eliminate injuries and disorders associated with the overuse of muscles, bad posture, and repeated tasks.
An easy and straightforward approach to assessing potential ergonomic-related problems is to conduct a review of various injury and illness records.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)external icon offers a series of eTools that provide stand-alone, interactive, web-based information to assess and evaluate ergonomic hazards.
Additional considerations when using injury data
- Workers compensation records and claims primary purpose is to pay for lost wages, medical costs, and rehabilitation for persons who become ill or injured by causes arising out of or in the course of employment. Not for the identification of health and safety risks or prevention. The use of this information for that purpose may be limited. Some limitations include under reporting of cases, potential reporting biases, delayed case reporting, limited access to specific diagnostic information, and incomplete and sometimes inaccurate information
- Workers compensation data is more sensitive to traumatic injury and acute occupational disease than it is to chronic conditions resulting from repeated exposures. This is in part due to the fact that chronic conditions may have long latency periods and when they arise, it is difficult to prove what exact workplace exposure may have caused them. Acute disease or injury is easier to establish causality
- Review both the individual factors (mental alertness, judgment, reaction time) and organizational factors (exposures, work environment) that may contribute to workplace injuries to prevent or mitigate future occurrences
- With the leading edge of the Baby Boomers in their early sixties, employers are feeling the impact of the aging workforce. Employers with a significant number of older workers should pay particular attention to the needs of this group. As the workforce gets older and more years are expected before retirement, it can be anticipated that the physical condition of workers will become a significant contributor to workplace injuries. For example, over 20% of older adults are obese which is a primary risk factor for cumulative trauma disorders to the back, knees, shoulders, and neck.2-3 These injuries contribute substantially to workers compensations claims and health care costs
- Ensure confidentiality of employee data
- Employers should become familiar with the state’s workers compensation laws
1. Weeks JL, Levy BS, Wagner GR, editors. Preventing occupational disease and injury. 2nd ed. Washington DC: American Public Health Association; 2005.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The Merck Company Foundation. The State of Aging and Health in America 2007. Whitehouse Station, NJ: The Merck Company Foundation; 2007.
3. Drennan, Fred. “Making the Safety/Fitness Connection.” ISHN AUG 2002.