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Study links incidence of fatal and nonfatal workplace injuries

A study paid for by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the RAND Center for Health and Safety in the Workplace has found some startling statistics. According to the report, states that have low nonfatal injury rates for construction workers tend to have high fatal injury rates. Interestingly, the opposite is also true. Reports have indicated that construction has the highest number of fatalities among all segments of the industrial market.

The study on workplace injury found that states with high nonfatal injury rates were found mostly in the West, where more workplace inspections occur. In addition, these states were more likely to have stronger unions as well as higher wages and benefits. Those states with high fatal injury rates were mostly located in the South, where lower wages, weaker unions and lower workers' compensation benefits are apparent.

Ten states were listed--five with the most nonfatal injuries and least fatal injuries and five with the most fatal injuries and least nonfatal injuries. Pennsylvania was not listed amongst these 10 states.

Researchers with the study used data collected by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2003 to 2005 and 2006 to 2008. Construction injuries from these timeframes were examined on a state-by-state basis.

According to the lead author of the study, one of the key factors influencing the difference in rates is the type of workers' compensation benefits that are offered. Researchers with the study believe that this is due to the increased likelihood for workers to report an injury if they receive better compensation benefits.

It is possible, however, that the RAND study and its results are skewed. Regulators have an accurate number of fatal injury rates in the industry but it is not likely that nonfatal injuries are reported as accurately as fatalities. Differences in state regulations, populations, wages, level of unemployment and union activity can all alter the likelihood that nonfatal injuries are reported. Those with the study said that, due to these variables, workers' compensation benefits should not be seen as the sole reason for differences for the state-based statistics.

Source: Health Canal, "States with Low Workplace Nonfatal Injury Rates Have High Fatality Rates and Vice Versa," May 7, 2012.

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Gregory R. Gifford
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