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Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities

Occupational injuries and illnesses resulting in musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), sometimes called “ergonomic injuries”, occur when the body uses muscles, tendons, and ligaments to perform tasks, often times in awkward positions or in frequent activities which over time can create pain and injury. Overexertion and repetitive motion are the primary causes of these injuries.

Examples of the nature of the injury or illness may include pinched nerves, carpal or tarsal tunnel syndrome, and other connective tissue disorders, resulting from overexertion or bodily reaction, among others. A full definition of MSDs can be found here: Occupational Safety and Health definitions.

The Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII) collects data on MSDs for cases involving days away from work (DAFW).

In 2018, there were 900,380 DAFW cases in the U.S. private sector with 272,780 (or 30 percent) being MSD cases. In 2011, there were 311,840 cases involving MSDs. The incidence rate of MSD cases was 27.2 per 10,000 full time workers in 2018, and 35.4 in 2011. The median days away from work for MSD cases was 12 in 2018 and was 11 days in 2011 (see chart 1).


Retail trade, manufacturing, and healthcare and social assistance had 50 percent of all MSD cases in the private sector in 2018. The healthcare and social assistance industry had 56,360 MSD cases in 2018 (see chart 2). The median days away from work for this industry was only 8, while the median days away for MSD cases in the private sector was 12. The transportation and warehousing industry had an incidence rate of 77.1 MSD cases in 2018. This industry, and the information industry had a median days away from work for MSD cases of 26 and 33 days respectively.


Ten occupations made up 40 percent of all MSD cases in the private sector in 2018. Of these ten (see chart 3), laborers and freight, stock, and material movers had 25,110 MSD cases. Nursing assistants and heavy and tractor trailer truck drivers had 15,360 and 14,810 cases respectively. MSD cases made up 52 percent of all DAFW cases to nursing assistants. Heavy and tractor trailer truck drivers had a median days away from work due to MSDs of 21 days.

Age Group

For those MSD cases were the age of the worker was reported (98 percent), workers age 45 to 64 had an incidence rate of MSDs of over 30 cases per 10,000 full-time workers in 2018 (see chart 4). This same age group had a total of 117,190 cases which comprised 44 percent of all private sector MSD cases. Workers age 65 and over had 10,010 cases in 2018. Their MSD incidence rate was 21.2 in 2018 (see chart 4).

For technical information and definitions, please see the (BLS Handbook of Methods).

Case characteristics used to define musculoskeletal disorders are from the Occupational Injury and Illness Classification System (OIICS).

You can obtain data from the Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities program by using the following tools: Create Customized Tables (Multiple Screens), Create Customized Tables (Single Screen), and the Online Profiles System. Additional tables and charts are on the IIF homepage and the IIF State page.

Last Modified Date: May 1, 2020