News | June 15, 1999

Big Help for Small Business

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has released a report that provides new information on the risk of occupational injuries and illnesses in small businesses. The report helps small business owners, occupational safety and health professionals, and others begin to focus injury and illness prevention in areas of small business where the greatest need exists.

The report, "Identifying High-Risk Small Business Industries: The Basis for Preventing Occupational Injury, Illness and Fatality," found that the highest-risk small business industries, when both fatal and non-fatal injury and illness measures are combined, are cut stone and stone products; truck terminal facilities; and roofing, siding, and sheet metal work. These small business industries also had some of the highest average annual costs for occupational injury and illness per employee, ranging from $935 per employee in roofing, siding, and sheet metal work to $5,703 per employee in logging. In comparison, average annual costs for major industries with larger employers are highest in construction ($781 per employee) and manufacturing ($627 per employee), and lowest in finance, insurance, and real estate ($153 per employee).

"Small businesses are a vital part of American society as employers of more than half of the U.S. workforce, but their resources often are limited, and historically they have not been as well served by the professional health and safety community as larger companies," noted NIOSH Director Linda Rosenstock, M.D., M.P.H. "This new report provides a starting point for additional efforts to help family businesses, small entrepreneurs, and others protect their employees and avoid the high costs of occupational injuries and illnesses."

The report notes that the leading causes of fatal occupational injuries among various small business industries are transportation incidents, assaults and violent acts, contact with objects and equipment, and falls. Highest rates for fatal occupational injuries per 100,000 employees occurred in taxicabs (324), trucking terminal facilities (159), soil preparation services (115), logging (108), and cut stone and stone products (49.6). In comparison, the average annual fatality rate for all industries is 4.8 fatalities per 100,000 workers.

Copies of "Identifying High-Risk Small Business Industries: The Basis for Preventing Occupational Injury, Illness, and Fatality," NIOSH (DHHS) Publication 99-107, are available from the toll-free NIOSH information number, 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674). Other free resources for small businesses, including a variety of publications, training materials, and videos on preventing occupational injuries and illnesses may also be obtained from the same number. Information also is available at An additional NIOSH report listing comprehensive resources for small business health and safety is scheduled for issue later this year.