The CDC estimates that 3.4 million work-related injuries and illnesses were treated at U.S. hospital emergency departments in 2003.

The figure is comparable to the CDC’s previous reports in 1998 and 1996. “Younger workers, particularly males, continue to have the highest overall rates of injury/illness,” states the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Five categories of work-related injuries and illnesses accounted for nearly 80 percent of the cases (more than 2.7 million injuries/illnesses). Here are those five categories, starting with the most common problem:

Sprains and strains Cuts, punctures, amputations, and avulsions (ripping body parts) Bruises and scrapes Dislocations and fractures Burns

Hospitalization Rare

In 2003, nearly 97 percent of workers who went to emergency departments were treated and released. About 2 percent were hospitalized, according to the CDC. Dislocations and fractures were the most common diagnoses for hospitalized workers.

The CDC’s numbers are based on data from 67 U.S. hospitals. The figures don’t include common illnesses (like colds), cases not treated at hospitals, or injuries/illnesses not recorded in medical records as being related to work.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has reported declining numbers of work-related injuries and illnesses each year from 2002 to 2004, the CDC notes. The BLS statistics are based on reports made by private employers and excludes small businesses and farmers, government workers, and the self-employed. These statistics look at all medical visits, not just hospital data.

The CDC calls for further efforts to address workplace safety and cut work-related injuries and illnesses.

By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Ann Edmundson, MD

SOURCES: CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, April 28, 2006; vol 55: pp 449-452. News release, CDC.