New White Paper Looks at Serious Injuries, Fatalities from 2017 to 2021
Although data found the rate of SIFs decreased from 2020 to 2021, employers need to continually work to prevent these events from happening.
Sunday, April 16, 2023
Section: OSHA

medical workers

A new white paper from ISN examines serious injuries and fatalities in a five-year time frame, as reported by contractor companies across the country.

Per the paper, Serious Injury and Fatality Insights - A Five-Year Exploration of Contractor Incidents (which adds to information from a 2021 white paper), over 50,000 U.S. contractor companies responded to an ISN questionnaire on incidents from 2017 to 2021. From these (including the 2,797 respondents who “reported SIFs and submitted an OSHA 300 Log”), 94,560 incidents and 20,023 SIF cases were identified.

For the paper, ISN used OSHA’s definition of severe fatalities: “an amputation, in-patient hospitalization, or loss of an eye.” ISN’s analysis determined that in the five-year time frame, there were 2,773 amputations, 17,264 hospitalizations and no eye losses. Out of the more than 20,000 cases, there were 677 fatalities.

Every year, more than 40 percent of SIF events were caused by contact with an object or equipment, with 2021 seeing the highest rate at 48 percent. The other causes listed in the paper include falls, slips and trips as well as overexertion and bodily reaction.

The most common nature of the SIF also stayed consistent year over year—sprains, strains and tears were always the leading nature, though fractures and dislocations weren’t too far behind. The largest percentile difference between the two was in 2017 when 32 percent of SIF events were sprains, strains and tears and 23 percent were fractures or dislocations. In 2021, sprains, strains and tears only outranked fractures and dislocations by three percent (27 percent and 24 percent, respectively).

We’ve looked at the cause and the nature, but what about the affected body part? Over the five years, the leading body part has always been the upper extremities. The lower extremities was the second-most common body part, with the trunk being third. In 2021, only a four percent difference separated upper extremities (37 percent) from lower extremities (33 percent).

Understanding how frequently SIFs occur and in what capacity can help employers and other stakeholders make changes and decisions that are best for their employees. To help jumpstart the process, let’s look at a few leading indicators that can impact SIF rates.

For starters, as outlined in the paper, U.S. contractors with “employees [that] work in a Process Safety Management Facility” experience a 21 percent lower SIF rate, and those whose policies involve employee criminal background checks see a 23 percent lower rate.

Brian Callahan, President and Chief Operating Officer at ISN, highlighted other leading indicators, saying in the paper: “Our analysis found that contractors who implemented a Process Safety Management or Hazard Communication Program experienced a 27 to 29 percent lower SIF rate, further illustrating the value of insights like these and the support that data-driven tools from ISN provide in helping workers return home safe each day.”

Four leading indicators associated with higher SIF rates were also identified. These include U.S. contractors who “operat[e] commercial motor vehicles” (39 percent higher SIF rate), when an employee’s job requires them to work on surfaces six feet or higher (43 percent higher rate), contractors with citations from as late as three years ago (68 percent higher rate) and those that “wor[k] with rigging material handling” (77 percent higher rate).

From 2020 to 2021, the rate of SIFs reported by contractor companies to ISN decreased dramatically by 35 percent. However, the years prior do not follow suit. Compared to 2017, 2018 saw a SIF rate increase of 12 percent. This then dropped by 17 percent in 2019 but increased by nine percent in 2020.

The drop from 2020 to 2021 may be encouraging, but it doesn’t mean work on reducing SIFs should come to a halt.

“As SIFs continue to impact workforces, companies and contractors must regularly collect and analyze SIF-related data and use insights to adjust their strategies to prevent future incidents,” Callahan also said in the paper.

To read the full white paper, see ISN’s Serious Injury and Fatality Insights - A Five-Year Exploration of Contractor Incidents.

Interested in learning more about SIFs? Register today for OH&S’ free Reducing the Costs of Serious Injuries and Fatalities webinar.