Overexertion followed by slips, trips or falls are the most common workplace injuries reported among Maine workers.
In this May 31, 2022, file photo, a worker with plans checks construction of a four-story, 45-unit condominium in Portland. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Maine had the highest number of workplace injuries and illnesses in the country in 2021.

Victor Tardiff, director of statistics for the Maine Department of Labor, said that the statistic of 4.7 cases per 100 full-time workers does not reflect a failure. Rather, it means that Maine workers are reporting accidents or illnesses and being treated before they become more serious and require worker’s compensation.

“There’s a lot of incentive for employers to get workers back in the workplace in that restricted workflow,” he said, “and bring them back up to capacity.”

Steven Greeley, director of workplace safety and health at the state Department of Labor, said the state offers classes and site inspections to help employers improve workplace safety, but the classes and site visits are not used enough.

“If the employer requests us, we can do a walkthrough of their site, similar to an OSHA inspection. The big difference is there is no penalties associated with it. We expect them to fix what we find as far as hazards, but we don’t penalize,” he said.

Greeley did 392 site inspections last year. He said his office does outreach for industries where workers are more likely to be injured.

Tardiff said overexertion on the job followed by slips, trips or falls are the most common causes of injuries, and that workers in construction, health care, corrections, warehousing and transit are the most susceptible.

The national average for accidents is 2.8 per 100 full-time workers.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.