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Dec. 16, 1999

Washington worksites continued safety trend in 1998

TUMWATER - Washington workers suffered slightly fewer injuries and illnesses in 1998 than they did the previous year, continuing a seven-year trend of improvement, according to a survey released today by the Washington Department of Labor & Industries.

The overall 1998 workplace injury and illness rate indicates that Washington workplaces were marginally safer than in 1997. Significantly, the numbers are the lowest in more than a decade.

But generally speaking, Washington workers still suffer job-related injuries and illnesses at a higher rate than the national average.

"The downward trend tells us that we're headed in the right direction, and we're certainly encouraged," L&I Director Gary Moore said. "But at the same time, we also know that since we lag behind the national averages, there's still room for improvement. Our challenge is to take this downward trend and build upon it."

The survey showed that 9.2 out of every 100 full-time workers in Washington suffered a job-related injury or illness in 1998, down from the 9.6 posted in 1997. This rate was as high as 12.0 as recently as 1992. There has been steady, incremental improvement.

In addition, every 3.9 of those 9.2 workers who were injured or became ill in 1998 required time off from work or modified duties to recover. That number was a slight improvement from the 4.0 posted in 1997.

All major industrial categories except agriculture and retail trade reported improved or unchanged numbers. In construction, for instance, the injury and illness rate dropped from 17.3 workers in 1997 to 15.5 in 1998.

In the sub-category of lumber and wood products, the injury rate dropped from 23.7 in 1997 to 18.2 in 1998. Also within that category, the logging rate was reduced by half, from 23.7 in 1997 to 11.9 in 1998.

Less encouraging were the numbers in agriculture (including forestry and fishing), where the rate went from 11.2 in 1997 to 12.9 in 1998.

Once again, the construction industry's 15.5 rate accounted for the highest incident rate among all industries. Manufacturing, with a 13.2 rate was next, followed by agriculture's 12.9 rate. As in past years, these three industries recorded the highest rates. The industry breakdown:

 

Industry 1998 1997 1996
Construction 15.5 17.3 17.6
Manufacturing 13.2 13.5 13.2
Agriculture 12.9 11.2 12.2
Transportation 10.1 10.4 10.2
Wholesale Trade 9.6 9.6 10.1
Retail Trade 9.8 9.3 10.6
State & Local Government 7.9 8.1 7.9
Services 6.2 7.1 8.1
Mining 6.7 6.7 5.7
Finance, Insurance & Real Estate 2.2 2.8 2.8

Another breakdown of the numbers shows that those businesses employing between 50 and 249 workers had the highest injury rate, continuing a historic pattern. The breakdown:

 

Year 1-10 workers 11-49 50-249 250-999 1000+
1998 5.2 9.0 10.7 8.6 7.3
1997 7.2 9.7 10.7 8.6 7.0
1996 7.6 9.7 11.1 9.5 7.0

The numbers, the most current available, were provided through a survey of approximately 6,200 randomly selected Washington employers in cooperation with the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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