Fatal Injuries Declined 17 Percent in 2009

Preliminary results from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries released Aug. 19 show a decline in workplace fatalities in 2009 of 17 percent, compared with 2008. Transportation injuries, still the number one workplace killer, dropped 21 percent.

Last year, 4,340 workers died from work-related injuries, down from a final count of 5,214 fatal work injuries in 2008. BLS attributed much of the drop in fatal workplace injuries to economic factors, a trend that began in 2007. Overall, fatal work injuries are down 26 percent since 2006.

“A single worker hurt or killed on the job is one too many,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “While a decrease in the number of fatal work injuries is encouraging, we cannot – and will not – relent from our continued strong enforcement of workplace safety laws.”

Key preliminary findings of the 2009 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries include:

  • Workplace homicides declined 1 percent in 2009, in contrast to an overall decline of 17 percent for all fatal work injuries. The homicide total for 2009 includes the 13 victims of the November shooting at Fort Hood. Workplace suicides were down 10 percent in 2009 from the series high of 263 in 2008.
  • Though wage and salary workers and self-employed workers experienced similar declines in total hours worked in 2009, fatal work injuries among wage and salary workers in 2009 declined by 20 percent while fatal injuries among self-employed workers were down 3 percent.
  • The wholesale trade industry was one of the few major private industry sectors reporting higher numbers of fatal work injuries in 2009.
  • Fatal work injuries in the private construction sector declined by 16 percent in 2009 following the decline of 19 percent in 2008.
  • Fatalities among non-Hispanic black or African-American workers were down 24 percent. This worker group also experienced a slightly larger decline in total hours worked than non-Hispanic white or Hispanic workers.
  • The number of fatal workplace injuries in building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations rose 6 percent, one of the few major occupation groups to record an increase in fatal work injuries in 2009.
  • Transportation incidents, which accounted for nearly two-fifths of all the fatal work injuries in 2009, fell 21 percent from the 2,130 fatal work injuries reported in 2008.

Solis said that as the economy regains strength and more people re-enter the work force, the Department of Labor will remain vigilant to ensure America’s workers are kept safe while they earn a paycheck. “After all, as I’ve said before, no job is a good job unless it is also safe,” said Solis.

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