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10 Most Common Occupational Illnesses in the U.S.


Accidents happen anywhere, anytime, even when proper safety and training steps are taken. Every year, thousands of workers file claims after something within the system hiccups and compromises their overall well-being, or quite simply, because the demands of the positions themselves begin wearing down the body with continuous physical stress. Injuries, which the government lumps in with illnesses, run the most rampant in the offices, warehouses, roads, and other workplaces across the United States.

For consistency’s sake, all numbers have been culled from the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s 2010 study of nonfatal occupational illnesses requiring days away from work.

  1. Sprains, Strains, and Tears:

    In 2010, 46.9 out of 10,000 workplace-related injuries and illnesses came in the form of what the Bureau of Labor Statistics labels “sprains, strains, and tears.” Forty-three percent of these incidents occurred because of workers overexerting themselves, with 36% impacting the back. Yet such injuries to the shoulders actually required more time away from work than any other body part, with an average of 21 days. Back sprains, strains, and tears have actually declined in the previous years and at a rate faster than any other body part, no less.

  2. Musculoskeletal Disorders:

    The BLS lumps all musculoskeletal injuries and illnesses into one statistic, and they make up 34.3 out of 10,000 on-the-job incidents. Most complaints involve the back, but rotator cuff disorders, carpal tunnel, and other nonspecified pains are also extremely common. All of them have experienced an increase over time, especially amongst those working as orderlies, nurses, and attendants.

  3. Overexertion:

    Twenty-seven out of 10,000 total workplace injuries and illnesses occurred because of overexertion, marking an increase of 3% from previous years. Social assistance and healthcare positions in the private sector experienced far more strain-related conditions, at a staggering rate of 48 per 10,000 employees. Overexertion in lifting comprised 13.2 of the 27 reported cases, and the aforementioned “sprains, strains, and tears” stood as the most likely result of pushing the body beyond its limitations.

  4. General Soreness and Pain:

    Overall body pain, including the back, accounted for 13.3 out of 10,000 reported on-the-job injuries and illnesses, and 11% required recovery at home or a convalescence center. Labor jobs unsurprisingly stood as the riskiest when it comes to suffering the symptoms, particularly among workers in transportation and warehousing. Twenty-eight out of 10,000 of such employees reported severe soreness and pain, with a median of 17 days away from the job to properly recover.

  5. Bruises and Contusions:

    The BLS reports that 9.9 out of every 10,000 workplace injuries involved contusions and bruises, and a total median of four days away from work to heal. Numbers also reveal that 2.2 out of 10,000 incidents of multiple injuries also involve bruising as well as sprains. Once again, transportation and warehouse workers experienced the highest rate of suffering the conditions, with 20.2 out of 10,000.

  6. Cuts, Lacerations, and Punctures:

    Twenty-nine percent of the 9.1 of 10,000 cut, laceration, and puncture reports involved some sort of incident regarding work-related equipment, with fingernails and fingers the most vulnerable body bits, accounting for 26%. At 1.1 of 10,000 Punctures stand as far less common than cuts and lacerations, which the BLS lumps together. Employees in the refuse and recyclable material collection industry suffered these injuries significantly more than their counterparts elsewhere, with a staggering 185.9 out of 10,000 reporting slices and dices.

  7. Fractures:

    Fractures accounted for 8.5 out of 10,000 reported workplace injuries and illnesses, and employees diagnosed with the condition needed a recuperation period of 28 days away from the job. The hunting industry claims 21.1 of the 2010 numbers, making it the most at-risk demographic, followed by mining (17.9) and construction (17.7). As a part of the BLS’ statistics regarding multiple sustained injuries and illnesses, it only afflicts .9 out of 10,000.

  8. Multiple Injuries and Disorders:

    Workers who experienced more than one diagnosis concurrently form an entire grouping according to the BLS, who cited 5.7 instances out of every 10,000 in 2010. Hunting again exists as the most vulnerable career path to sustaining multiple traumatic injuries and illnesses, at a rate of 11.3 out of 10,000, and, as seen previously, instances involving strains and bruises are more common than those with fractures and burns. However, law enforcement officials were the most likely (33.3 out of 10,000) to require time away from work in order to recuperate.

  9. Back Pain:

    Four out of 10,000 workplace injuries and illnesses specifically involved some form of back pain, whether alone or in conjunction with some other body part. Owing to the nature of their positions, both intercity and transit bus drivers suffer the most, in both categories — 96.1 out of 10,000 for combined pain and 44 out of 10,000 for just the back. In total, though, cases hailing from all professions only needed about eight days outside of work for a recovery to take place.

  10. Heat Burns and Scalds:

    Food service employees, at a rate of 8.5 for every 10,000 workers, suffer from scalds and heat burns more than their counterparts in any other industry. Across the board, though, these injuries still sported a rate of 1.6 out of 10,000 reported cases of occupational incidents. On average, burns and scalds required a median of eight days to properly heal enough for patients to safely return to work.

July 3rd, 2012 written by Staff Writers

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