We analyzed Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data from 2012 and identified four industries with a remarkably high risk of injury and a relatively low rate of return in terms of wages.
The four industries – transportation, manufacturing, constructing and farming – combined to account for 40,700 of the state’s total recordable cases of worker injury or illness (41 percent) and 70 percent of the state’s 101 total fatalities (70 percent) in 2012.
In particular, the state’s farming industry had a fatal injury rate (17.7 fatal injuries per 100,000 full-time workers) that was more than five times higher than the national rate across all industries (3.2). At the same time, workers in those four industries in Georgia earned well below the national and state average hourly and yearly wage levels. For example, the average hourly wage for construction workers in Georgia was $18.33 per hour, or $3.68 lower than the national average and $2.49 below the state average across all industries.
If a worker in one of these high-risk industries suffers an injury, workers’ compensation can provide limited relief. Workers may also be entitled to seek Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits or pursue personal injury damages against a negligent non-employer.
A long-term solution to this issue may be emphasized education and training for more “low risk, high reward” jobs such as those found in technology. Hasner Law PC has years of experience dealing with workers' compensation cases in Atlanta and Savannah.
We chose 2012 because it was the most recent year for which we could find complete data in both areas – wage and injury – on a state and national level.
*Numbers in thousands
At the state level, in Georgia, there were 99,200 total recordable cases of non-fatal occupational injuries and illnesses.
The same four industries, combined, accounted for a high percentage of the state’s total recordable cases, cases of days away from work and cases involving a job transfer or restriction.
*Numbers in thousands
In fact, those four industries accounted for:
Additionally, these same four industries contributed significantly to total national and state worker fatality counts.
Nationally, 62 percent of total worker fatalities occurred within these four industries. In Georgia, the number was even higher: 70 percent.
**Sources: National (http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/cftb0268.pdf);Georgia (http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/tgs/2012/iiffw13.htm)
Based on these statistics, it is reasonable to conclude that jobs within these four industries can be classified as “high-risk” occupations.
We decided to take a closer look at these four industries and analyze how their non-fatal and fatal injury rates compared to national and state rates for all occupations. Again, we studied BLS data from 2012.
With only a few exceptions, the incident rates in these industries were above the national and state rates for all occupations – and, in some cases, significantly higher.
As you can see, on a national scale, all four “high-risk” industries we identified had either the same or a higher non-fatal injury and illness rate as the rate for “all industries.”
The incident rate for “all industries” in Georgia fell slightly below the national 3.7 incident rate, while only one state industry, farming, had an injury rate that was above that national rate.
However, the 7.0 incident rate in the Georgia farming industry was more than double the state’s “all industries” rate.
Additionally, out of the four “high-risk” industries, only manufacturing had an incident rate below the state’s “all industries” rate.
As the chart to the right shows, three industries in Georgia – farming, transportation and construction – had fatality rates above the 3.2 national fatality rate for “all industries.”
In fact, the fatality rate in the Georgia farming industry was nearly five times the national “all industries” rate, while transportation had more than double the national rate.
Manufacturing was the only Georgia industry with a rate below the national “all industries” rate. However, at the same time, the state’s fatal incident rate in that industry (2.4) was higher than the national rate for the same category (2.1).
*Incidence rates represent the number of fatal injuries per 100,000 full-time workers
**Sources: National (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/archives/cfoi_08222013.pdf);Georgia (http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/rate2012ga.pdf)
Having identified four “high-risk” industries, we turned to an analysis of the wages within those industries, using BLS wage estimate data from 2012. It is important to note that the BLS categorizes wage estimate information by “occupation” and not by “industry.” Thus, we used the closest match between injury and wage categories as follows:
|BLS Industry Category (Injury Data)||BLS Occupational Category (Wage Data)|
|Transportation||Transportation and Material Moving Occupations|
|Construction||Construction and Extraction Occupations|
|Farming||Farming, Fishing, and Forestry Occupations|
According to the BLS, the average hourly wage across all occupations in 2012 was $22.01, while the average yearly salary was $45,790. In Georgia, the average hourly wage across all occupations during the same year was $20.82, while the average yearly salary was $43,310.
As you can see in this chart, the four “high-risk” industries in Georgia that we identified each fell below both state and national hourly and yearly wage levels.
|Georgia (all occupations)||$20.82||$43,310|
|National (all occupations)||$22.01||$45,790|
**Sources: National (http://www.bls.gov/oes/2012/may/oes_nat.htm#00-0000);Georgia (http://www.bls.gov/oes/2012/may/oes_ga.htm#00-0000)
These numbers indicate that workers face a high level of risk in those four industries in exchange for a relatively low reward, or wages that fail to meet national and state averages.
Georgia, like other states, has a workers’ compensation system in place. The system provides benefits – and thus some relief – to eligible workers who suffer job-related injuries or illnesses. It also provides benefits to eligible surviving family members of workers who die from work-related injuries or occupational diseases.
It is important to note that workers’ compensation coverage does not extend to independent contractors or to farm laborers. However, in many cases, workers who have been deemed “independent contractors” may actually be treated as employees (and eligible for benefits) by the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation. Also, employers may elect to provide workers’ compensation benefits to farm laborers).
A key aspect of the workers’ compensation system is that it provides benefits without the need for the injured or ill worker to prove the fault of the employer. The benefits available to injured and ill workers through Georgia’s workers’ compensation system include medical benefits, lost-wage benefits and vocational rehabilitation services.
However, each category of benefits has limits. Consider the following: (Click on the icons to learn more)
Now, consider the cost of living. According to an article on SmartAsset.com, the average cost of rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Georgia is $1,030 per month, while the average cost of utilities is $134.14.
Thus, roughly 60 percent of what our injured construction worker would receive in benefits would go towards simply keeping a roof over his or her head. Food, transportation, clothing and other expenses (including those arising from support of children) could quickly end up placing the worker in debt.
Fortunately, many injured or ill workers may also qualify for reduced Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. In some cases, a worker who is injured by a negligent non-employer, or “third party,” may seek compensation through a personal injury claim.
As the above indicates, workers in “high risk, low reward” industries such as farming, manufacturing, construction and transportation can face dire consequences if they suffer a work-related injury or illness.
Workers’ compensation can provide much-needed assistance to these workers, but in many cases, the benefits may not be enough to keep a worker from struggling to make ends meet. It is important to focus on providing education and training opportunities for more “low risk, high reward” occupations such as those in technology sector.
For instance, according to BLS data, a “computer user support specialist” who provides technical assistance to computer users (typically in an office setting) earns, on average, $24.10 per hour and $50,130 per year.
At the same time, as a worker in the “professional, scientific, and technical services” industry, such a worker would face an incident rate risk of only 0.3 per 100 full-time workers. Increased support for our community college system and vocational rehabilitation services may ultimately provide a route for acquiring the skills and knowledge to acquire such jobs.