Every occupation has a risk of illness and injury, but some have a higher likelihood than others. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of non-fatal injuries and illnesses in the workplace among full-time workers in the private industry went from 2.8 million in 2019 to 2.7 million in 2020. This is a 5.7% reduction.
The 2020 numbers include 2.1 million injuries on the job (down drastically from 2.7 million in 2019), with illnesses quadrupling from 2019’s 127,000 to 2020’s 544,000. Obviously, the pandemic skewed the number of illnesses with a whopping 4,000% increase (10,800 to 428,700) in respiratory illnesses caused by COVID-19.
The five riskiest occupations
Some may be surprised to find their job on or not on this list. This list uses the rate of injury per 100,000 workers often used to measure risk.
- Health care: Injuries in this work often involve slip-and-fall, strains and sprains from helping patients, and respiratory illnesses from working near the ill.
- Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting: Many are familiar with the risks graphically portrayed by the Deadliest Catch TV show, but these other outdoor jobs also present serious risks, particularly here in North Carolina.
- Transportation and warehousing: Those driving large trucks or loading and unloading trucks are often injured due to shifting cargo, fatigue due to long hours and motor vehicle accidents. Illness is also high because of the sedentary nature of the work, unhealthy food options, and the hard physical labor of loading and unloading cargo.
- Manufacturing: The line of work involves large and dangerous industrial equipment and working in close quarters.
- Retail: Some may be surprised to see this one, but exposure to customers led to high numbers of illnesses. Retailers traditionally face risks of slip and fall or injury from stocking.
The demographics most likely to suffer injury or illness were female workers and workers over 65 years old.
Injury and illness affect employees and employers
It’s in the worker’s best interests to report any safety concerns, but that may not be enough to initiate more robust safety protocols. Moreover, businesses that do not take the risk of injury or illness seriously run the risk of understaffing (which can cause more problems) and the expense of worker’s compensation or personal injury claims.