Top 7 Industries with Most Occupational Injuries and Illnesses


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently recorded an incredible 2.9 million private industry workplace injuries and illnesses, as well as over 750,000 in the public sector. While these numbers (which exclude fatalities) mark a continued decrease in the overall number and rate of workplace injuries, there are also some particularly interesting findings within the data.

First, and perhaps one of the most surprising, is that individuals working for local governments are almost twice as likely to suffer a nonfatal workplace injury or illness than their private industry counterparts. Secondly, the vast majority of private sector cases were injuries (95.2%). Between public and private industries, however, certain types of jobs were far more likely to be the source of such incidents.

The top 7 industries with the most occupational injuries and illnesses are:

  • Elementary and secondary schools: 259,500 cases
  • General medical and surgical hospitals: 214,100 cases
  • Restaurants and other eating places: 185,200 cases
  • Nursing and residential care facilities: 171,900 cases
  • Specialty trade contractors: 138,000 cases
  • Ambulatory health care services: 130,000 cases
  • General merchandise stores: 103,300 cases

This list may come as a surprise to some, but it’s important to note that the results based on total number are not the same as when you look at percentages. Some of the industries at the top of the list employ a significant number of people, meaning that they’re simply more likely to have a large number of incidents. However, if we look at the top 7 major industry sectors for occupational injuries or illness based on rate (per 100 full-time workers), the list becomes:

  • Local government construction: 8.0
  • Local government transportation and warehousing: 7.6
  • State government healthcare and social assistance: 7.4
  • Local government public administration: 7.0
  • Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting: 5.7
  • Local government utilities: 6.2
  • Local government healthcare and social assistance: 5.1

Although state and local governments as a whole hire fewer people, they often hire individuals within the same industries as the private sector. According to BLS data, they also appear to suffer a significantly higher rate of workplace injuries and illnesses as well. There are certainly a few questions one can ask.

For example, why do construction workers experience such a high rate of injuries? The answer here is due to the nature of the work, but also potentially attitudes within the industry. Construction workers often work on dangerous job sites and the top sources of injury for these workers were overexertion and slip and fall, with many of those slip and fall incidents leading to death. In addition, recent data indicated that 58% of those working in construction felt that productivity was viewed as a higher priority over safety.

Meanwhile, health care workers end up high on the list due to contracting illnesses from their environment. Many may remember the stunning case out of Dallas several years ago when a nurse caught the Ebola virus after treating patients, even after wearing protective gear. Indeed, state government workers in nursing and residential care facilities experience the absolute worst rate of injury and illness, with nearly 12 injuries per 100 full-time workers.

In general, workplace injuries are difficult to avoid, but the private industry, it would appear, has a better handle on safety standards for its employees despite employing a larger volume of people.