BLS: 8,786 Workers Died on the Job in 2001

Sept. 26, 2002
A total of 8,786 fatal work injuries were reported in 2001, including fatalities related to the September 11th terrorist attacks, according to the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The census found deaths from falls and highway crashes continue to rise, and mining continues to have the highest fatality rate of any industry.

Excluding the fatalities on September 11th, workplace fatalities decreased less than one percent from 2000.

"[This] release of workplace fatality data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is a grim reminder to us all of the importance of job safety and health and the value of human life," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "Many workers who died in 2001 were killed by terrorists on Sept. 11. But 5,900 other workers also died from injuries and illnesses that are still far too common in our workplaces."

A total of 2,886 work-related fatalities resulted from the events of September 11th. Excluding these fatalities, the overall workplace fatality count was 5,900 for 2001. Taking into consideration total employment also declined slightly in 2001, the occupational fatality rate was same in 2001 as in 2000, 4.3 fatalities per 100,000 employed.

The construction industry, with fatalities at their highest level since the fatality census was first conducted in 1992, continued to report the largest number of fatal work injuries of any industry. From 2000 to 2001, decreases in fatalities from transportation incidents and job-related homicides were offset by increases in fatalities from falls and from electrocutions.

"The 2001 fatality rate was essentially unchanged over the prior year. The good news is that there were significant drops in worker fatalities in manufacturing, from homicides and among youth. But we have great concern over the increase in deaths among construction workers, Hispanic and Latino individuals and those dying from falls," said Henshaw.

Fatalities resulting from transportation incidents decreased for the third year in a row, from 2,573 in 2000 to 2,517 in 2001. Highway incidents, however, increased about 3 percent from 2000 and continued to be the leading cause of on-the-job fatalities. Fatal work injuries resulting from workers being struck by vehicles or mobile equipment also increased slightly in 2001. In contrast, the number of workers killed in non-highway incidents, aircraft incidents and railway incidents decreased. Non-highway fatal incidents, which include tractor and forklift overturns, were at their lowest levels since the census began in 1992.

Work-related homicides, at 639 (excluding fatalities resulting from September 11th), fell to their lowest levels since the census began; the record high was 1,080 in 1994. Homicides among technical, sales and administrative support workers decreased 14 percent to 203 fatalities. However, homicides increased sharply among workers in service occupations, which include police and detectives, food preparation workers, barbers and hairdressers. The number of workplace suicides and fatal assaults by animals increased slightly.

Fatalities resulting from falls increased to 808 in 2001, a 10 percent rise over 2000 levels. This was the highest total since the fatality census began in 1992. Falls to lower levels increased by 39 to 698 in 2001. Falls on the same level increased by 28 to a 10-year high of 84 in 2001.

Fatal falls in the construction industry increased 13 percent from 2000 levels and accounted for over half of all fatal falls. Worker deaths resulting from electrocutions and from fires and explosions increased to levels of the late 1990's after falling to a near 10-year low in 2000.

While fatalities in the construction industry increased 6 percent in 2001 to a record high, fatalities in manufacturing decreased 10 percent from 2000 to their lowest recorded level since the census began in 1992. Other industries showing decreases in work-related fatalities were transportation and public utilities, wholesale trade and retail trade.

The decrease in retail trade fatalities was largely a result of the decline in workplace homicides. Fatalities to workers in services remained relatively unchanged, while fatalities in agriculture, forestry and fishing; finance, insurance and real estate, as well as mining, increased. Fatalities in government (excluding September 11th) increased 10 percent from 2000.

"Our challenge is to continue to improve our programs, fine tune our systems and work harder than ever to drive down the fatality numbers even further," said Henshaw. "We won't stop until we are successful. You have my word on that."

Occupational fatality rates in 2001 were highest in the mining, agriculture, forestry and fishing, construction and transportation industries. The fatality rate for the mining industry, which includes oil and gas extraction, remained at 30 fatal work injuries per 100,000 workers for the second year in a row, the highest fatality rate. The agriculture, forestry and fishing industry had the second highest rate, at 22.8 fatalities per 100,000 employed. The private sector construction industry reported 13.3 fatalities per 100,000 employed, and the rate was 11.2 fatalities per 100,000 employed in the transportation industry.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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