A California Workers’ Compensation Institute (CWCI) review of work injury and illness data compiled by the state from employer’s OSHA 200 reports finds that California’s statewide work injury and illness rate fell to a record low in 2008, but in a troubling sign for public sector employers, the rate of reported injuries among state and local government workers did an about-face and increased for the first time in five years.
The Institute analysis found that since OSHA recordkeeping rules were last revised in 2002, the overall incidence rate of nonfatal work injuries and illnesses per 100 full-time employees (FTEs) in California has dropped nearly 27% from 6.0 in 2002 to 4.4 in 2008. That 7-year decline has been fueled by a 31% reduction in the rate of cases involving “days away from work, restricted work or job transfer” (commonly known as DART cases), which are usually more serious injuries, though the incidence of other recordable cases is down as well, off nearly 20% since 2002. Results for 2008 – the most recent year for which data are available – show a continuation of the downtrend in California’s overall job injury and illness rate, which fell 6.4% from the rate noted for 2007.
Breaking the results out by employment sector, however, the CWCI found troubling news for California’s public sector employers. Unlike the private sector, where the work injury and illness rate per 100 employees declined from 4.4 in 2007 to 3.9 in 2008, the rates for both state and local employees, which had declined steadily since 2002, were up in 2008. Among state workers, the job injury and illness incidence rate per 100 FTEs increased 5.6% from 5.4 cases in 2007 to 5.7 cases in 2008; while among local government workers the rate climbed 16% from 7.3 to 8.5. Taking a closer look at the data, CWCI found that the 2008 increase in the work injury and illness rate among state workers in California was due to a growing incidence of more serious DART cases, which rose from 2.7 to 3.1 cases per 100 FTEs, while the rate of other recordable cases was unchanged. In contrast, the big increase in the job injury and illness rate in the local government sector reflected both a growing incidence of DART cases (which rose from 3.6 in 2007 to 4.0 in 2008) as well as growth in the rate of other recordable cases (which rose from 3.7 in 2007 to 4.5 in 2008). The Institute notes this does not bode well for local governments in California, many of which are already facing severe budget problems and have already seen big increases in their workers’ compensation losses since 2005.
CWCI’s full review of the work injury and illness data has been released in a Bulletin, which is available to Institute members and research subscribers who log on to CWCI’s web site, www.cwci.org. Anyone wishing to subscribe to CWCI Bulletins and Research may do so by visiting the online Store on that site.