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Healthy People 2010 - With Annotations

Chapter 20

Occupational Health and Safety
Lead Agency: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Goal: Promote the health and safety of people at work through prevention and early intervention.


The toll of workplace injuries and illnesses is significant. Every 5 seconds a worker is injured in the United States.(1, 2) Every 10 seconds a worker is temporarily or permanently disabled.(1, 2) Each day, an average of 137 persons die from work-related diseases,(3, 4) and an additional 17 die from injuries on the job.(5) Although youth (persons aged 18 years and under) represent only 2 percent of the total workforce, each year 74,000 require treatment in hospital emergency departments for work-related injuries, and 70 die of those injuries.(6) In 1996, an estimated 11,000 workers were disabled each day due to work-related injuries.(7) In 1996, the National Safety Council estimated that on-the-job injuries alone cost society $121 billion, representing the sum of lost wages, lost productivity, administrative expenses, health care, and other costs. The 1992 combined U.S. economic burden for occupational illnesses and injuries was an estimated $171 billion.(8)

Work-related injuries and illnesses include any injuries or illnesses incurred by persons engaged in work-related activities while on or off the worksite. This includes injuries and illnesses which occur during apprenticeships, vocational training, working in family businesses, and even volunteer work as fire fighters or emergency medical services (EMS) providers.


Data systems that can routinely monitor disparities among population groups related to occupational injury and illness are not in place. NIOSH is working with partners and stakeholders in the occupational safety and health community to identify and address surveillance needs, including the need to track disparities.

Little is known about factors such as gender, genetic susceptibility, culture, and literacy that may increase the risk for occupational disease and injury. Occupational safety and health experts who worked to develop NORA agreed by consensus that many high-risk populations have been under served by the occupational safety and health research community, resulting in important unanswered questions about the profile of hazards these workers face, the number of cases of work-related injuries and illnesses, the mechanisms of these injuries and illnesses, and the optimal approach to preventing them. As a result, special populations is one of 21 NORA priority research areas which will examine the special challenges faced by different groups in the increasingly diverse work force.


The growing U.S. workforce, projected to be 147 million by the year 2005, also is changing. The population is increasingly diverse and more rapidly exposed to innovative work restructuring and new technologies. Evidence suggests that the way work is organized may directly affect worker health. Work organization broadly addresses the health effects of conditions of employment. It also encompasses special risks related to the overall economy, including the demands for productivity; the increasing presence in the workforce of children aged 16 to 17 years (2.1 percent increase projected each year from 1992 to 2005), women (47 percent of the workforce in 1997), minorities (becoming more racially diverse), and older workers (the aging of baby boomers); and the ongoing evolution from an industrial to a service economy.

The NORA strategic plan will ensure that research addresses the new, emerging work environment of the 21st century. Research translation, education, and outreach will ensure that labor, industry, academia, and national professional organizations have current information on how best to design prevention programs to protect worker safety and health.

Interim Progress Toward Year 2000 Objectives

For work-related injury deaths and nonfatal injuries, progress has been made toward meeting Healthy People 2000 objectives, including meeting several subobjectives (for construction and mining). The objective for reducing cases of hepatitis B infection among occupationally exposed workers has been exceeded, but the related goal for immunizing workers for hepatitis B fell short of the 2000 target. For several objectives, the Nation appears to be moving in the wrong direction as it approaches the millennium -- a situation that can be attributed, in part, to several confounding factors, including improved surveillance, reporting changes, and improved diagnosis. Finally, a few Healthy People 2000 objectives cannot be tracked reliably for progress, and some objectives have low relative value for monitoring improved outcomes in worker safety and health (for instance, safety belt policies at work do not equate automatically with safety belt use). These objectives have been revised, replaced, or dropped from Healthy People 2010 objectives.

Read Overview of Injuries

Back to HP 2010 Injury Objectives Page

Last modified: 15-Mar-2000.