Workplace injuries have fallen to a record low and small businesses remain the safest places to work, according to a new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The BLS study, which was released Oct. 19, measured the number of illnesses and non-fatal injuries at private-sector employers during 2005. At 4.6 cases per 100 workers (approximately 4.2 million cases total), injury frequency is down 4 percent from the previous year.
Small firms that employ 1 to 10 workers reported the lowest rate for injuries and illnesses -- only 2 cases per 100 full-time workers -- while midsize firms that employ 50 to 249 workers reported the highest rate with 5.8 cases per 100 workers. Companies with more than 250 employees had a rate of 5.2 cases per 100 workers. Small firms also ranked as the safest during 2004.
The numbers come as welcome news to small businesses, which not only have fewer resources to implement the safety systems of larger employers, but also have a harder time absorbing the detrimental effects of employee injuries -- from workers' compensation insurance to employee absence.
Of the 4.2 million nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses in 2005, approximately 4 million -- 94.2 percent -- were injuries, compared to under 6 percent for illnesses.
Regulations vary, but most states require companies with even one employee to get workers' compensation, insurance to cover such injuries, and it is the business owner's obligation to cover the entire cost.
A history of previous claims or dangerous work environment can make insurance costs even higher. The National Council on Compensation Insurance, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based firm that sets basic premium standards for different industries, reports that a roofing company with 10 employees could easily pay a yearly $100,000 premium.
Another concern for small businesses is covering for employees that miss work. Out of 4.2 million cases, approximately 2.2 million injuries and illnesses required days away from work, job transfer, or a restriction of duties.