U.S. Job Injury Stats Miss Most Cases: Study

Nearly two-thirds of work-related woes aren't reported, researchers say

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MONDAY, April 10, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- The current means by which U.S. health officials track on-the-job injuries and illnesses may miss up to two-thirds of the total number of cases, a new study suggests.

Researchers at Michigan State University, East Lansing, analyzed four databases to identify work-related injuries and illnesses resulting in more than seven days of missed work that occurred in Michigan from 1999 to 2001.

These results were compared to occupational injury and illness data from the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The four combined data bases revealed 79,400 cases of work-related injury and illness, compared to just 30,800 injuries and illnesses recorded by the BLS. That means the BLS system missed 61 percent of the cases in Michigan in that three-year period. An additional analysis by the same researchers suggested the BLS system missed 68 percent of cases.

The findings appear in the April issue of the American Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

"Based on the results of our analysis, we estimate that the number of work-related injuries and illnesses in Michigan is three times greater than the official estimate derived from the BLS annual survey," researcher Dr. Kenneth D. Rosenman said in a prepared statement.

The BLS statistics suggest that work-related injuries affect one in 15 Michigan workers per year, but the study findings suggest that rate is closer to one in five workers.

A number of factors may contribute to this difference, the researchers said. The BLS system does not count government workers or people who are self-employed, and some workers and employers may feel it's not in their interest to report work-related injuries and illnesses.

More information

The U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has more about worker health and safety.

SOURCE: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, news release, April 10, 2006

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