BLS: Fatal Work Injuries Declined in 2002

Sept. 29, 2003
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is reporting a total of 5,524 fatal work injuries were recorded in 2002, a decline of 6.6 percent from 2001.

According to the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, the count for 2002 was the lowest ever recorded by the fatality census, which has been conducted yearly since 1992. The fatality rate also reached a new low of 4.0 fatal work injuries per 100,000 workers in 2002.

In 2001, 5,915 fatal work injuries occurred, excluding the 2,886 work-related fatalities that resulted from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which were tabulated separately. The comparisons in this release do not include the fatalities related to the terrorist attacks.

Fatal highway incidents were down 3 percent from 2001, but continued to be the most frequent type of fatal workplace event in 2002, accounting for about a quarter of all fatal work injuries. Other types of fatal transportation events also declined, including aircraft incidents (down 22 percent) and workers struck by vehicle or mobile equipment (down 7 percent). Overall, fatal work injuries from transportation incidents declined for the fourth year in a row, from 2,645 in 1998 to 2,381 in 2002.

Workplace homicides were down about 5 percent in 2002, from 643 in 2001 to 609 in 2002. The number of workplace homicides in 2002 was the lowest recorded in the fatality census and represented a 44 percent decline from the high of 1,080 workplace homicides recorded in 1994. Workplace suicides also were down in 2002.

Fatalities resulting from falls declined for the first time since 1998, from 810 in 2001 to 714 in 2002, a drop of 12 percent. Virtually all types of fatal falls declined in 2002, though falls from ladders and falls from nonmoving vehicles increased slightly.

The only major fatality event recording an increase was exposure to harmful substances or environments (up 8 percent). The increase in this event category was led by a sharp increase in the number of fatalities involving contact with temperature extremes (such as heat stroke), which increased from 35 fatalities in 2001 to 60 in 2002. Electrocutions also increased slightly in 2002.

To request a copy of BLS Report 970, which highlights 2001 fatality results and includes a summary of the work-related fatalities that resulted from the terrorist events of September 11, 2001, e-mail your address to [email protected] or write to Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2 Massachusetts Avenue, NE, Room 3180, Washington, DC 20212.

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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