40 percent of all Minnesota days-away-from-work cases

By Brian Zaidman, Research Analyst Research and Statistics

The U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), recently released the 2002 survey statelevel estimates for work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs). These statistics are based on cases with at least one day away from work (DAFW) collected as part of the annual Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. The data shows there were approximately 13,300 DAFW cases with WMSDs in Minnesota in 2002, accounting for 40 percent of all DAFW cases. Because of changes by OSHA to its recordkeeping requirements, the data for 2002 is not comparable with data for prior years. (The recordkeeping changes are explained at the end of the article.) BLS defines WMSDs as disorders of the muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage and spinal discs that are not caused by slips, trips, falls, motor-vehicle accidents or other similar accidents. The BLS tables provide data for private industry in the country as a whole and for each state that participates in the BLS survey. Information about WMSD cases involving state and local government employees are available for some states, including Minnesota. Figure 1 shows: • There were an estimated 13,310 WMSD cases in Minnesota in 2002. Between 2000 and 2001, the overall number of WMSD cases decreased from 16,340 to 13,150. • The estimated number of cases in 2002 is similar to the estimate for 2001. Because of the recordkeeping changes, it is unclear whether actual changes in job safety occurred or whether there was an effect from the recordkeeping itself.
Figure 1: Number and incidence rate1 of musculoskeletal disorders in Minnesota involving days away from work Year Private industry Number 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002

State government Number 360 230 230 200 210 Incidence rate 46.0 33.3 37.9 31.5 35.5

Local government Number 1,240 1,290 1,240 1,130 1,070 Incidence rate 71.0 68.7 68.7 55.1 53.5

Incidence rate 76.4 80.5 80.5 66.7 68.7

13,550 14,520 14,870 11,830 12,030

Incidence rates represent the number of injuries and illnesses per 10,000 full-time workers. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

Safety Lines


Summer 2004

Figure 2 shows, for private employers in 2002: • The percentage of DAFW cases that were WMSDs was similar in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin, and was slightly above the national rate. These percentages were nearly unchanged from the previous year. • The rate of WMSD injuries in Minnesota was above the national rate, slightly above Iowa’s rate and 13 percentage points below Wisconsin’s rate. • Minnesota WMSDs had a lower median number of days-away-from-work than the neighboring states and the national average.
Figure 2: WMSDs in the United States, Minnesota and neighboring states, private employers, 2002 Minnesota Total DAFW cases Number of WMSDs Percent of all DAFW cases WMSDs per 10,000 FTEs Median days-away-from-work: all injuries all WMSDs carpal tunnel syndrome

Iowa 15,740 6,180 39.3% 64.2 5 7 18

Wisconsin 38,430 15,170 39.5% 81.5 6 7 38

United States 1,436,200 488,000 34.0% 55.3 7 9 30

29,380 12,030

40.9% 68.7 5 6 27

Days-away-from-work (DAFW) cases occur when workers miss at least one day away from work after the day of the injury. WMSD injuries are only identified among DAFW cases. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

Recordkeeping changes

The OSHA recordkeeping changes affect which injuries and illness are recordable, how injuries and illnesses are categorized, and how days away from work are counted. These changes make direct comparisons between the 2002 results and those for earlier years unreliable. Data from earlier years is provided to show the trend during the previous years. Some of the recordkeeping changes that affect the number of WMSD cases are: • An aggravation of a case where signs or symptoms have not been resolved is not a new case, even if the aggravation was caused by a new event or exposure. Previously, each new event or exposure was treated as a new case. • Under the previous requirements, a cumulative trauma disorder was considered a new case if no care was received for the previous 30 days. The new requirements have no such criteria. In the absence of a new work-related event or exposure, the reappearance of signs or symptoms may be treated as part of the previous case. • WMSDs are recordable when general recording criteria are met. Previously, WMSDs were recordable under the general criteria or when identified through a clinical diagnosis or diagnostic test. For more Bureau of Labor Statistics survey information about WMSD cases, contact Brian Zaidman by e-mail at
Safety Lines 7 Summer 2004