BLS Profiles Fatal Work Injuries by Occupation

Sept. 27, 2002
Operators, fabricators and laborers again recorded the largest number of fatal work injuries of any occupational group, accounting for more than one out of every three fatalities in 2001, according to the latest Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

However, the number of fatalities in this occupational group dropped 4 percent for the second year in a row. Most of this decrease resulted from fewer fatalities among motor vehicle operators, particularly truck drivers. There also were fewer fatalities among material moving equipment operators, machine operators and workers in railroad transportation and water transportation. Fatalities among handlers, equipment cleaners, helpers and laborers increased, mainly due to an increase in fatalities to construction laborers. Fatalities to non-construction laborers decreased.

Service occupations showed an increase of 18 percent in fatalities, the highest percentage increase among the major occupation categories.

Within this occupation group, police and detectives, including supervisors, had the highest number of fatalities. Fatalities in personal service occupations increased from 37 in 2000 to 59 in

2001. Precision production, craft and repair occupations showed a small increase in the number of fatalities (3 percent). However, within this occupation group, fatalities in the extractive occupations (drillers and mining machine operators) increased from a low of 47 in 1999 to match its 10-year high of 97 fatalities in 1993.

While fatalities to truck drivers declined by 6 percent, they continued to incur more workplace fatalities than any other individual occupation. Truck drivers reported a rate of 25.3 workplace fatalities per 100,000 employed. Farm occupations had the second highest number of fatalities with 499 and rate of 27.9 fatalities, which increased from the previous year. Other occupations that typically have large numbers of worker fatalities but showed decreasing fatalities in 2001 included timber cutters, groundskeepers and gardeners, and aircraft pilots.

Fatalities to workers in military occupations increased over 25 percent, from 87 in 2000 to 110 in 2001 (excluding 9/11). Almost half of these fatalities resulted from aircraft crashes. The occupational fatality rate for military occupations increased in 2001 to 9.3 fatalities per 100,000 employed.

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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