California: Fatalities Declining as Employment Grows

Data released by the California Division of Labor Statistics and Research shows the number of workplace fatalities continued to decline in California in 2003 while employment numbers rose.

Last year, 456 of California's 16,283,000 workers were fatally injured on the job, down from 478 of California's 16,215,000 workers killed in 2002.

"Our aggressive approach to health and safety on the job in California is paying off," said John Rea, acting director of the Department of Industrial Relations, the state agency that oversees California's fatality data collection and occupational safety and health programs. "While one life lost is one too many, 22 more workers made it home safely to their families last year, and over the past 10 years 187 lives have been saved."

While the number of national fatalities rose in 2003, the number of workplace fatalities in California has declined steadily since 1997. Last year marked the second year in which fatalities have fallen below 500.

"Unlike some other states, California runs its own occupational safety and health program," said Rea. "Cal/OSHA specifically targets the state's problem industries with intensive enforcement and consultative assistance that help employers provide safer and healthier workplaces."

Among the top causes of fatalities in 2003 were:

  • Transportation incidents such as highway accidents, which accounted for 38 percent of workplace fatalities
  • Assaults and violent acts, which accounted for 18 percent of fatalities
  • Accidents involving contact with objects and equipment, such as being struck by falling objects or caught in running equipment, accounted for 17 percent of fatalities
  • Falls from ladders and roofs accounted for 16 percent of deaths
  • Exposure to harmful substances or environments such as electrocution caused eight percent of workplace deaths
  • Fires and explosions caused three percent of fatalities.

Of the workers killed on the job last year, 92 percent were men. Of the total fatal injuries, 52 percent were to white, non-Hispanic workers, while Hispanic workers accounted for 35 percent of fatal injuries.

Truck drivers, construction laborers, farm workers, police officers and grounds maintenance workers died on the job most frequently.

For national statistics, see "Workplace Fatalities Rise Slightly in 2003."

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