U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Report: Injuries Down, Illnesses Up in 2020 - National Safety Council

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Report: Injuries Down, Illnesses Up in 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic played a unique role.

November 12, 2021

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its annual report on workplace injuries and illnesses for 2020, and the results are not surprising but are very interesting. The COVID-19 pandemic played a unique role, impacting workplace injuries and illnesses in a variety of ways, both positively and negatively. As expected, we saw a drop in workplace injuries and an increase in illnesses.

Some of the key takeaways from this report are:

Private industry employers reported 2.7 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2020, down from 2.8 million in 2019 (a decrease of 5.7%)

Total cases decreased, but more severe cases (those involving days away from work) increased

  • Fewer cases total due to fewer injuries, more severe cases due to more illnesses
  • 32% of the cases involving days away from work were categorized as other diseases due to viruses not elsewhere classified, which includes reported COVID-19 related cases
  • Total reported illness cases more than quadrupled, driven by a 4,000% increase in employer-reported respiratory illness cases in 2020, at 428,700, up from 10,800 in 2019

Additionally, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, injury and illness trends involving days away from work by age group clearly showed a consistent increase in the number of injuries and illnesses impacting workers 55 and older. However, in 2020 all age groups experienced an increase in the number of cases involving days away from work. This increase was a result of 390,020 COVID-19 cases (coded as: other diseases due to viruses, n.e.c.) representing 33% of all cases involving days away from work.

A very concerning shift in 2020 was that for the first time ever, women experienced slightly more injury and illness involving days away from work than men.

  • Although not specifically coded, Women experienced the illness category that includes COVID-19 more than twice as frequently as did men: Men 108,080 vs. Women 276,190 (Other diseases due to viruses, n.e.c.)
  • No cases in this category were reported in 2019

As always, the BLS report is thorough and touches on a variety of injuries and illnesses, and how different industries were impacted. While it’s difficult to analyze and determine causation for each data point, given how anomalous 2020 was, BLS.org has a great FAQ page on how the pandemic impact is reflected in nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses for 2020.

Visit our Injury Facts page to learn more about the trends as they pertain to different industries, types of injuries and illnesses, demographics, and more.