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The Geography of Work-Related Injuries

The Geography of Work-Related Injuries
Josh Edelson / Reuters

On Monday, a major fire at one of the country's biggest oil refineries sent three employees to the hospital. It was a tragic turn of events, but it turns out America's most dangerous jobs aren't at refineries. They're in hospitals.

The United States' Bureau of Labor Statistics breaks down the number of injuries and illnesses by industry, with some surprising results [PDF]. Nursing and residential care facilities rank in the top ten most dangerous (14.7 injuries per 100 full-time workers for state industries and 10.9 for local industries). In comparison, petroleum refinery incidences barely register (at 0.7 cases per 100 full-time workers), according to another table [PDF].

There are also significant disparities in the geography of injury and illness. The 2010 numbers for nonfatal injury and illness for private industry show that Maine has the highest recorded incidence rate, 5.6 injuries per 100 full-time workers). Washington, D.C., has the lowest incidence rate of 1.9 [PDF].


Map courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Workplace Injuries and Illnesses — 2010 report [PDF]

Of these incidences, almost 95 percent are injuries. Nearly 76 percent were in service-producing industries (however, most of the workforce is in service jobs), and the remaining quarter was in the goods-producing sector (17.6 percent of jobs).

Below, a table of the highest incidence rates of total nonfatal occupational injury cases for 2010:

Industry 2009 Rate 2010 Rate
Nursing and residential care facilities (State government) - 14.7
Travel trailer and camper manufacturing (Private industry) 10.0 12.9
Fire protection (Local government) 11.6 12.5
Skiing facilities (Private industry) 10.3 11.6
Iron foundries (Private industry) 10.0 11.0
Nursing and residential care facilities (Local government) 10.7 10.9
Hospitals (State government) 10.4 10.4
Police protection (Local government) 11.7 10.4
Aluminum die-casting foundries (Private industry) 6.6 10.1
Ambulance services (Private industry) 8.8 9.8
Steel foundries (except investment) (Private industry) 7.0 9.7
Other concrete product manufacturing (Private industry) 5.4 9.4
Veterinary services (Private industry) 9.4 9.1
Sugar manufacturing (Private industry) 6.9 8.9
Heavy and civil engineering construction (Local government) 12.5 8.6
Elevator and moving stairway manufacturing (Private industry) 6.7 8.6
Soft drink manufacturing (Private industry) 9.0 8.4

Table data courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Industry Injury and Illness Data, Table SNR06 [PDF]

The BLS data on fatal work-related injury rates tell a similar story. Fishers and related fishing workers, logging workers, aircraft pilots and flight engineers, and farmers and ranchers all had high death rates in 2010. The petroleum refinery industry recorded seven fatalities that year, versus 36 for fishing and 70 for logging [PDF].

Top image: Josh Edelson / Reuters

Sara Johnson is a fellow at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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