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The national impact of workplace injuries and illnesses

The federal government tracks the number of job-related deaths, injuries and illnesses each year in New Jersey and all other states. The Bureau of Labor Statistics then calculates incidence rates -- the number of fatalities, injuries or illnesses per 100 employees. The most recent reports summarize details related to 2013 non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses in the private and public sectors.

In 2010, more than 139 million people were in the U.S. civilian workforce. In 2013, over 3 million employees in the private sector suffered reportable illnesses or injuries. Other than 2012, the numbers over 11 years reflected an ongoing nationwide drop in occupational injuries and illnesses.

The incidence rate of private industry illnesses and injuries in 2013 was 3.3 out of 100 full-time employees. The rate for injuries alone was 3.1 per 100 workers. The combined rate for public sector employees was considerably higher at 5.2 incidents per 100 employees, with the highest incidence rate – 5.7 per 100 -- among local government workers.

About half the reportable injuries or illnesses in the private sector involved employees missing work, job limitations or incident-related transfers. Almost 95 percent of all nonfatal incidents were related to injuries, not sickness. Over three-fourths of the injuries occurred among service providers, by far the largest group of all private industry employees.

Workers' compensation benefits cover employee losses caused by on-the-job-work injuries, illnesses and deaths. The benefits pay employee medical bills and cover a portion of wage losses, as well as compensate families who've lost loved ones. The federal government estimates the overall yearly impact on the economy, including lost productivity, is over $192 billion.

Some workplace accidents or illnesses result in a few days or weeks away from the job, while others involve lengthy rehabilitation or cause permanent disability. Attorneys can help employees file claims, challenge benefits' decisions and seek other compensation through legal actions.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Traumatic Occupational Injuries" accessed Mar. 12, 2015

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