Last year a woman driving a golf cart on Pier 29 in Honolulu was hit by another vehicle and broke her neck. She was working at the time for Aloha Marine Lines, a barge shipping company.

But she’s not the only dockworker who was seriously injured on the job in recent years. The month before her injury, a man lost part of a finger in a pulley accident at BAE Shipyard in Pearl Harbor.

These are just two of at least 20 Hawaii workers who were severely injured in 2015 and 2016, according to recently released data from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Kakaako Ala Moana Center construction skyline cranes. 26 sept 2016

Construction sites are among the common places for workplace injuries in Hawaii.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

OSHA began requiring employers to report any amputation, in-patient hospitalization, or loss of an eye at the beginning of 2015. In doing so, it hoped to reduce work-related deaths by identifying high-risk areas and eliminating hazards.

However, this data only covers injuries in workplaces overseen by federal OSHA regulations, such as military bases and some maritime industries.  This means, for example, that an injured dock worker at Pearl Harbor would be included in this dataset, but a restaurant employee in Pearl City would not.

In Hawaii, most severe work-related injuries are reported to the state division of Occupational Safety and Health (HIOSH).  

HIOSH provides only summary statistics detailing workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities by industry, but it does not provide incident-level data like that released by OSHA.  According to Linda Chu Takayama, Director of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations for the State of Hawaii, this is to protect confidentiality.

You can explore the 20 injuries that occurred in Hawaii and were covered by OSHA in this map:

A few details of note include:

  • 19 of the 20 injuries occurred on Oahu, with the other occurring on the island of Hawaii
  • Six amputations occurred in those two years, but only three of those also involved a hospitalization
  • Two U.S. Postal Service employees suffered severe injuries, both of which were amputations
  • Three injuries involved vehicles: one delivery truck/van, one tractor, and one golf cart
  • Fingers and fingertips were the most-frequently injured body part, with five injuries

You can also view the full details of these injuries in table form here.

 

A More Complete Picture

The regulation requiring reporting of amputations, hospitalizations, and lost eyes may be new, but OSHA has been tracking workplace injuries since it was created in the 1970s.

While most injuries are reported to the state, OSHA investigates fatalities and catastrophes, and information related to these investigations is available dating back decades. Unlike the new amputation and lost eyes data, this investigation data is not limited to workers in maritime industries and on military bases.

In the last forty years, Hawaiian Dredging & Construction Company had the most incidents investigated by OSHA, with 21 worker injuries investigated.

You can search all injuries investigated by OSHA in Hawaii by company below:

Safer Workplaces in Recent Years

Overall, workplaces have become much safer during the time OSHA has been investigating injuries. While there are many reasons for the improvements, two main factors are “a growing emphasis on safety and health” and a changing economy, according to Leo Kay, a spokesman with the Department of Labor.

“There has been a shift in employment in general away from the industrial [to] new and emerging fields,” Kay said. “There has also been a surge in technology over the last 10 – 15 years where there are more mechanical means of doing a lot of the work that used to be extremely hazardous.”

In Hawaii, the decline of the sugarcane industry provides a good example of workplace injuries reflecting broader economic shifts.

In the 1980s, more workers were injured in the sugarcane industry than any other. The number of workplace injuries in sugarcane declined considerably in the 1990s and disappeared entirely in recent years, as the industry left the state.

Explore this and other trends in this graphic:

 

You can download the data sets, analysis, and an explanation of methodology on GitHub.

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