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The Journal Gazette

  • FILE: Firefighters, which are listed as local government workers, were among the most often injured employees in the workforce in 2018.

Friday, November 08, 2019 1:00 am

Workplace injury rate in Indiana lowest ever

3.3 per 100 workers in '18 fewest since records taken

SHERRY SLATER | The Journal Gazette

Indiana workplaces last year were the safest of any year on record, according to data released Thursday by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The state's rate of nonfatal workplace injuries and illness is estimated at 3.3 per 100 full-time workers in 2018. That's a 6% decrease from the previous low of 3.5% in 2017. The Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses has tracked data since 1992. About 5,800 businesses each year are asked to submit data from their Occupational Safety and Health Administration logs.

Workplace safety has been of particular concern this year after an Ossian man died on the job in January at Premier Avionics at Fort Wayne Aero Center, a Leo-Cedarville man was killed in a March accident at Steel Dynamics Inc.'s Columbia City plant and a Bainbridge, Ohio, man died while performing maintenance work on a large auger at Valero Renewable Fuels in Bluffton.

Thursday's report doesn't include workplace fatalities, however.

Rick Ruble, Indiana Department of Labor's commissioner, said workplace health and safety continues to steadily improve in the state.

Last year's rate was 71% lower than the high of 11.3 per 100 recorded in 1994, officials said.

Broad categories show industries with the highest rates of nonfatal workplace injuries and illness in the state were:

• Arts, entertainment and recreation – 5.7

• Health care and social assistance – 4.7

• Local government – 4.6

• Transportation and warehousing – 4.4

• Manufacturing – 4.1

Arts, entertainment and recreation includes spectator sports, movie theaters and dance troupes. Local government includes police officers, firefighters and street maintenance crews.

Various factors influence the rate of particular industries, the report states.

“Employers, employees, regulatory agencies, outreach programs, trade organizations and labor unions can positively impact occupational health and safety through safety awareness programs, enforcement of occupational safety and health standards, training and education,” the report states.

It goes on to say: “Economic factors such as the number of employees in a particular industry can also affect the rates, as can the same size and the companies surveyed.”

Safety campaigns might explain why manufacturing and construction don't rank higher on the list. The construction industry reported 2.6 nonfatal workplace injuries and illness per 100 full-time workers.

Agriculture, a category that traditionally has relatively high injury rates, is a volatile category “with dramatic fluctuations” in data, the report states. The 2018 rate of 3.6 reflect injury and illness rates on large farms because farms with 10 or fewer workers are exempt from participating in the survey.

Ruble noted in a statement that Indiana has 86 companies in Indiana's Voluntary Protection Program and 41 companies in its Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program.

“These companies have made a vested commitment to improving worker safety and health,” he said.

“It's this kind of commitment that has enabled Indiana to reduce nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses year over year.”

sslater@jg.net