NCCI study

U.S. Workplace Safer Than Ever

Workers’ compensation frequency has fallen almost every year for over two decades, and by nearly one‐third just in the last 10 years, according to a recent report from the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI). A slightly different metric used by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics documents a 30% decrease since 2006.

NCCI says recent declines in workplace injuries have coincided with a period of significant change in the U.S. labor force. Specifically, the number of workers who are at least 55 years old has doubled since 2000, women now make up nearly 50% of the labor force, and the share of service sector employment is at near record.

Although each of these changes has historically been associated with lower rates of injury, NCCI reaches a different conclusion. “Workforce demographics do matter to injury frequency, but demographic change does not explain declining injury frequency during the past decade,” the agency says. It notes incidence rates have declined 1% to 4% annually (usually 2%–3%) across‐the board for all worker demographic categories and for all three of the most -common causes of injury.

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In sum: frequency decline is mainly the result of lower incidence rates for all workers, and not the result of changing workplace demographics. NCCI says the aging workforce has had almost no net effect on frequency decline. The agency also reports younger prime-age workers have lower rates of injuries than older workers, a reversal from a decade ago.

In another challenge to conventional thinking, NCCI says it remains true that men have higher rates of injuries than women, but the gap is shrinking as women move into jobs that have higher rates of contact-injuries, such as construction and manufacturing.

In its comprehensive report on the nature and state of the U.S. workplace, NCCI documents that nearly 85% of workplace injuries are caused by overexertion, contact with objects or equipment, and falls, slips and trips. Among these three major causes of injury, only falls, slips and trips make up a higher share in 2017 than in 2006, - meaning the incidence rates for falls, slips, and trips has declined less than the overall incidence rate.

The most prominent trend in the U.S. labor force over the past two decades is the increasing share of workers aged 55 and older— from about 12% of the labor force in 1996 to 17% in 2006, and 22% in 2016. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects this trend will continue over the next decade.

Another trend, often observed and lamented, is the decline in the share of jobs from goods-producing sectors to service sectors; from Manufacturing, Construction, Natural Resources and Mining, to service sectors. Jobs in Manufacturing declined nearly 20% over the past decade and are expected to drop another 15% in the next 10 years.

But perhaps the most remarkable change in recent years has been the steady decline in workplace injury rates. NCCI reports that as recently as 1994, workers under age 35 suffered about 280 workplace injuries and illnesses per 10,000 FTE workers, while workers aged 45–64 suffered about 200 injuries and illnesses per 10,000 FTE.

By the late 2000s, both incidence rates had declined to slightly over 100 – a reduction of almost 50% for older workers, and an even larger reduction of nearly 65% for younger workers.