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Profile of Occupational Injury and Illness Statistics

California and the Nation

Data for the following analyses, except where noted, were derived from the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) Division of Labor Statistics and Research (DLSR), from the United States Department of Labor (DOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and from the California Workers’ Compensation Institute (CWCI).

Incidence Rates

California’s most recent work injury and illness statistics for 2004 indicate an injury and illness rate of 4.9 cases per 100 full-time employees in the private sector in 2004. This is a 48 percent decline from the 1990 peak level of 9.4 and an estimated 8.6 percent decrease from the previous year’s figures.

The trend in California mirrors a national trend.  DOL figures for private employers show that from 1990 to 2004, the work injury and illness rate across the United States fell from 8.8 to 4.8 cases per 100 employees in the private sector.  The reduction in the number of incidences of job injuries is likely due to various factors including a greater emphasis on job safety, the improving economy since the early 1990s, and the shift from manufacturing toward service jobs.

Data from the Western region states, Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, indicate that California’s 2004 private-industry rate of 4.9 for non-occupational injuries and illnesses is the second lowest.3  Arizona had the lowest incidence rate of 4.5 in 2004 was Arizona, and Hawaii had the second-lowest incidence rate.


Days-away-from-work cases, including those that result in days away from work with or without a job transfer or restriction, dropped from 2.2 to 1.5 cases per 100 full-time employees from 1995 to 2004 in the private sector.  This also mirrors the national trend with the number of days-away-from-work cases falling from 2.5 to 1.4 cases in the national private sector with a similar decline as that of California.  

In the “State Report Cards for Workers’ Compensation,” published by the Work Loss Data Institute, the Institute reported that the median days away from work in California and New York is 8 days, compared with the national average of 6 days.4

Industry Data  

In 2004, injury and illness incidence rates varied greatly between private industries ranging from 2.4 injuries/illnesses per 100 full-time workers in the financial activities sector to 6.5 in construction.  California’s private industry rates for total cases were higher than the national rates in every major industry division, except for manufacturing and for natural resources and mining.

The private industry total case rate for non-fatal injuries decreased between 2003 and 2004 from 5.4 to 4.9, and the rate for the public sector (state and local government) increased from 8.4 in 2003 to 8.9 in 2004.

Over the decade 1995-2004, the number of fatal injuries declined by about 35.6 percent, from 646 to 416.  From 2003 to 2004, the number of fatal injuries decreased by 8.7 percent.  The highest number of fatal injuries was in construction, followed by trade, transportation and utilities.

In private industry, the top ten occupations with the most non-fatal injuries and illnesses in descending order are: laborers and freight, stock, and material movers; retail sales persons; construction laborers; carpenters; janitors and cleaners, except maids and housekeeping cleaners; truck drivers, light or delivery services; truck drivers, heavy and tractor-trailer; farm workers and laborers, crop, nursery, and greenhouse; nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants; and registered nurses.

3 The comparisons of industry rates have not been adjusted for industry mix within each state.

4  http://www.odg-disability.com/pr_repsrc.htm

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