Workplace Fatalities Drop 10 percent From '07, According to New BLS Data
Work-related fatalities continued to decline in 2008, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The preliminary findings revealed that a total of 5,071 fatal workplace injuries were recorded in 2008, down 10 percent from 2007's 5,657 reported deaths. Officials said the rate of workplace deaths for U.S. employees was 3.6 fatalities per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, down from the final rate of 4.0 in 2007.
Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis said the 2008 results represent the smallest annual preliminary total since the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries program was first conducted in 1992. However, she said that even one death is too many and employers shouldn't let their guard down due to the promising statistics.
"While the decrease in the number of fatal work injuries represents change in the right direction, it does not lessen the need for strong enforcement to ensure that safety is a top priority in every workplace," Solis said. "In fact, today's report prompts us to step up our vigilance, particularly as the economy regains momentum. Working with both employers and employees, the Department of Labor will not be satisfied until there are no workplace deaths due to failure to comply with safety rules."
Economy's role. BLS officials said the recession and other economic factors likely played a role in the decrease in fatalities. Average hours worked at the national level fell by 1 percent in 2008. In addition, some industries that have historically accounted for a significant share of worker fatalities, such as construction, experienced larger declines in employment or hours worked.
Another factor that should be considered when reviewing the preliminary results is how the economy may have impacted the government agencies that provide source documents used in the compilation of CFOI data. According to the report, budget constraints at some of these governmental agencies may have delayed the receipt and processing of the documents that are used by the BLS' state partners to classify and code fatality cases for the study. Officials said the updated 2008 counts scheduled for release in April 2010 have the potential to be larger because of these delays.
Among the highlights of the BLS report, researchers found that:
- Construction industry saw significant decline. While workers in construction incurred the most fatalities of any industry in the private sector in 2008, the number of deaths declined 20 percent -- from 1,204 cases in 2007 to 969 cases in 2008. Fatalities involving workers in the construction of buildings were down 21 percent from 2007, with most of the decrease occurring in residential building construction (down 28 percent to 93 cases).
- Fewer workers died from falls in the workplace. Fatal workplace falls, which had risen to an all-time high in 2007, also declined by 20 percent in 2008. Fatal falls to a lower level, which accounted for 85 percent of all falls, were down 23 percent in 2008. Fatal falls from roofs were down 26 percent and falls from ladders decreased by 14 percent.
- Teen workers experienced more fatalities. The number and rate of fatal work injuries among 16- to 17-year-old workers were higher in 2008.
- Hispanic and Latino fatalities dropped. Fatal occupational injuries involving Hispanic or Latino workers in 2008 were 17 percent lower than in 2007. Fatalities among non-Hispanic Black or African-American workers were down 16 percent. Fatalities involving foreign-born workers accounted for 16 percent of all fatal work injuries in the U.S.
- Farming, fishing and forestry deaths rose after dropping in 2007. The number of fatal workplace injuries in farming, fishing, and forestry occupations rose 6 percent in 2008 after declining in 2007. Fatalities to workers in crop production led the increase, rising 18 percent.
- Transportation-related fatalities fell to an all-time low. Transportation incidents, which accounted for approximately two-fifths of all the workplace fatalities in 2008, fell 13 percent from the previous all-time low of 2,351 cases reported in 2007.
- Fatalities from fires and explosions increased. Fatal workplace injuries from fires and explosions jumped 14 percent in 2008.
- Fatalities among government workers were down slightly. While fatalities incurred by federal and local government workers decreased by 4 percent in 2008, the report found that fatalities among state government workers were at the highest level since 1998.
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September 28, 2009
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