Report Examines 'Death on the Job'

In 2000, on-the-job deaths from traumatic injuries claimed the lives of 5,915 workers, while another 6.3 million workers suffered workplace injuries or illnesses, according to a new AFL-CIO report.

In 2000, on-the-job deaths from traumatic injuries claimed the lives of 5,915 workers, while another 6.3 million workers suffered workplace injuries or illnesses, according to a new AFL-CIO report "Death on the Job."

The study, based on the most recent figures available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows that while workplace deaths dropped from 6,053 in 1999, for certain groups of workers, including Hispanic workers and miners, death and injuries are on the rise.

At the same time, according to the study, inspections and penalties issued by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) declined and the Bush administration halted action on dozens of new safety and health regulations and proposed budget cuts in job safety agency programs.

The study found that serious violations of the OSH Act carry an average penalty of $910 ($906 for federal OSHA, $915 for state plans). Oregon had the lowest average penalty for serious violations in FY 2001 ($261), while California had the highest penalty at $4,818. A violation is considered "serious" if it poses a substantial probability of death or serious injury.

The study also found:

  • Protections across the states vary widely. Alaska, Wyoming and Montana had the highest fatality rates in 2000, while Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Hampshire had the lowest.
  • It would take OSHA 84 years to inspect all the workplaces under its jurisdiction just once.
  • New government data shows that in 21 of 43 states reporting, ergonomic injuries went up between 1999 and 2000. The most dramatic increases are: 40 percent more workers who had to take off work because of an injury in Maine, 32 percent in Nevada, 17 percent in California and 10 percent in Massachusetts.
  • Transportation incidents continue to be the leading cause of workplace deaths, responsible for 2,611 or 44 percent of all fatalities in 2000.
  • The number of workplace homicides increased for the first time in six years, from 651 in 1999 to 677 in 2000.
  • Fatal work injuries to men were down 3 percent, while fatalities to women increased slightly.
  • Self-employed workers, who make up only seven percent of the workforce, accounted for 20 percent of the fatalities.

by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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