Fatality Rates Lower for Volunteer Workers 35 and Over

The fatal injury rates for volunteer workers 35 and older were lower when compared with the overall volunteer death rate, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The rates among volunteers in the 20-24 age range and 25-34 age range were 7.4 and 6.5 per 100,000 FTE (full-time equivalent) population, respectively. Those figures are more than twice as high as the overall volunteer death rate. They also are higher than the 1993-2002 average annual fatality rates for all workers in the 20-24 and 25-34 age ranges, which are 3.5 and 3.9 per 100,000 employed, respectively.

Among 189 volunteer workers age 34 or younger, 103 (54 percent) were volunteer firefighters or firefighting supervisors.

The Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries classifies employee status into one of seven categories:

1. Active-duty armed forces
2. Self-employed
3. Work in family business
4. Work for pay or compensation
5. Volunteer
6. Off-duty police
7. Not reported.

The census includes fatalities to volunteer workers if they were performing the same duties or functions as paid employees and they met its work-relationship definition. For this study, deaths were included if the decedent's employment status category was marked "volunteer." Excluded were deaths resulting from the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

After numbers of deaths were obtained from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, rates of death among volunteers were calculated by using estimates of median annual volunteer hours worked from the September 2002 Current Population Survey volunteer supplemental survey and converting those hours to FTEs (i.e., 2,000 hours worked per person per year). The Current Population Survey defines a volunteer as a person who performed unpaid activities for an organization.

Under the system used by BLS to classify industry sectors, 240 deaths (48 percent of the total) related to volunteer work occurred in public administration (including firefighting); 154 (31 percent) in services; and 23 (5 percent) in agricultural forestry and fishing.

Median age of victims at the time of death was 41 years; 436 (87 percent) of the decedents were male.

(This is Part II of a three-part series. Tomorrow: "Volunteer Groups Must Create Safety Policies.")

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