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Occupational Illness Rates by Industry – Great BLS Data Surprising Results


2017 Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Illness Rates by Industry – Surprising

Workers; Compensation Illness by Industry Rates shows which industries had the highest rates of occupational illness.

Occupational illnesses are defined by the BLS as:

BLS considers an occupational illness to be any abnormal condition or disorder—other than a case resulting from an instantaneous event or exposure—that is caused by an exposure to factors associated with employment.

Please note this does not include injuries by accident.   The subject becomes convoluted as some states workers’ compensation systems consider some illnesses to be accidents and vice-versa.  For now, let us stick with the BLS definition.

The table below comes from the BLS’s most recent release.  Yes, the data covers a year in the past.  However, the numbers have such a breadth and depth that lagging behind one year would be expected for such a massive data collection and reporting task.   Compiling and stratifying the data must be quite an enormous undertaking.

The Occupational Illness by Industry Rates Table

BLS graphic Occupational Illness rate by industry
Copyright US Gov

The BLS table ranks the Top 20 as:

Top 20 Illness Rates
Light truck and utility vehicle manufacturing (Private industry)233.1
Animal (except poultry) slaughtering (Private industry)199.2
Automobile manufacturing (Private industry)131.8
Police protection (State government)93.7
Farm management services (Private industry)89.6
Glass container manufacturing (Private industry)87.4
Beet sugar manufacturing (Private industry)85.5
Seafood product preparation and packaging (Private industry)83.1
Dried and dehydrated food manufacturing (Private industry)82.0
Amusement and theme parks (Private industry)81.2
Meat processed from carcasses (Private industry)81.1
Correctional institutions (State government)81.0
Nonferrous forging (Private industry)79.9
Ambulance services (Private industry)78.4
Poultry processing (Private industry)77.6
Aircraft manufacturing (Private industry)76.0
Footwear manufacturing (Private industry)70.5
Soil preparation, planting, and cultivating (Private industry)69.6
Motor home manufacturing (Private industry)69.3
Iron foundries (Private industry)68.6
Polish and other sanitation good manufacturing (Private industry)59.2
Ship building and repairing (Private industry)57.9
Metal can manufacturing (Private industry)57.0
Motor vehicle gasoline engine and engine parts manufacturing (Private industry)54.4
Hospitals (Local government)53.8




















Please note that I excluded the NAICS numbers. The formula for figuring out these BLS-calculated rates is:

  • The incidence rates represent the number of illnesses per 10,000 full-time equivalent workers and were calculated as: (N/EH) x 20,000,000, where N = number of illnesses  EH = total hours worked by all employees during the calendar year
  • 20,000,000 = base for 10,000 equivalent full-time workers (working 40 hours per week, 50 weeks per year)

The BLS included only higher rate industries. As a statistics person, I would say that is a great cut-off point.  Any industries with less than 500 recordable cases were excluded to remove any skewing by small data sets.   The data sets were categorized using the NAICS system.

The comparison also excluded farms with fewer than 11 employees.

Examining The Table

The industries that stood out as ones with surprisingly high illness rates:

  • Glass container manufacturing
  • Beet sugar manufacturing
  • Dried and dehydrated food manufacturing
  • Amusement and theme parks
  • Footwear manufacturing

I will check with our OSHA Consultant Glen on why those industries have higher rates.   Approximately 10 years ago, I looked at the same information.  As I remember, hospitals were the number one public entity illness exposure.

Welding is one job task that always seems to cause a higher rate of illness.

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James J Moore - Workers Comp Expert

Raleigh, NC, United States

About The Author...

James founded a Workers’ Compensation consulting firm, J&L Risk Management Consultants, Inc. in 1996. J&L’s mission is to reduce our clients’ Workers Compensation premiums by using time-tested techniques. J&L’s claims, premium, reserve and Experience Mod reviews have saved employers over $9.8 million in earned premiums over the last three years. J&L has saved numerous companies from bankruptcy proceedings as a result of insurance overpayments.

James has over 27 years of experience in insurance claims, audit, and underwriting, specializing in Workers’ Compensation. He has supervised, and managed the administration of Workers’ Compensation claims, and underwriting in over 45 states. His professional experience includes being the Director of Risk Management for the North Carolina School Boards Association. He created a very successful Workers’ Compensation Injury Rehabilitation Unit for school personnel.

James’s educational background, which centered on computer technology, culminated in earning a Masters of Business Administration (MBA); an Associate in Claims designation (AIC); and an Associate in Risk Management designation (ARM). He is a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) and a licensed financial advisor. The NC Department of Insurance has certified him as an insurance instructor. He also possesses a Bachelors’ Degree in Actuarial Science.

LexisNexis has twice recognized his blog as one of the Top 25 Blogs on Workers’ Compensation. J&L has been listed in AM Best’s Preferred Providers Directory for Insurance Experts – Workers Compensation for over eight years. He recently won the prestigious Baucom Shine Lifetime Achievement Award for his volunteer contributions to the area of risk management and safety. James was recently named as an instructor for the prestigious Insurance Academy.

James is on the Board of Directors and Treasurer of the North Carolina Mid-State Safety Council. He has published two manuals on Workers’ Compensation and three different claims processing manuals. He has also written and has been quoted in numerous articles on reducing Workers’ Compensation costs for public and private employers. James publishes a weekly newsletter with 7,000 readers.

He currently possess press credentials and am invited to various national Workers Compensation conferences as a reporter.

James’s articles or interviews on Workers’ Compensation have appeared in the following publications or websites:

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