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Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Shows a Decline in Worker Deaths

The Bureau of Labor Statistics on Aug. 20 released a report showing a decline of 6 percent in worker fatalities in 2006. The good news was tempered slightly, however, by increases in fatal falls, an increased number of fatal incidents involving police officers and the highest number of fatalities among African American workers since 1999.

“This is continued evidence that the initiatives and programs to protect workers’ safety and health, designed by and implemented in this administration, are indeed working. In addition to a decline in the overall number of fatalities, the rate for 2007 declined to 3.7 fatalities per 100,000 workers. This is the lowest fatality rate in recorded OSHA history,” said Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao.

Although final results for 2007 will be released in April 2009, the preliminary figure for 2007 is 5,488 fatal injuries recorded in the United States compared to 5,840 reported for 2006.

Key findings of the 2007 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) include:

  • Fatal falls continue to plague workplaces, with the number in 2007 rising to a series high of 835 – a 39 percent increase since 1992 when the CFOI program was first conducted.
  • Transportation incidents, which typically account for two-fifths of all workplace fatalities, fell to a series low of 2,234 cases in 2007.
    Workplace homicides rose 13 percent to 610 in 2007 after reaching a series low of 540 in 2006.
  • 2007 was a particularly deadly year for police officers causing the number of fatal workplace injuries among protective service occupations to rise 19 percent in 2007 to 337, led by an increase in the number of police officers fatally injured on the job.
  • Fatal occupational injuries incurred by non-Hispanic Black or African American workers were at the highest level since 1999, but fatal work injuries among Hispanic workers were lower by 8 percent in 2007.

Nearly all types of transportation fatalities saw sizable decreases in 2007 relative to 2006, including nonhighway incidents (down 15 percent); workers struck by vehicle, mobile equipment (down 10 percent); water vehicle incidents (down 28 percent); railway incidents (down 26 percent); and aircraft incidents (down 23 percent). Highway incidents also decreased, but only by 3 percent.

The 835 fatal falls in 2007 represented a series high for the fatality census. The increase for falls overall was driven primarily by increases in falls on same level (up 21 percent from 2006) and falls from nonmoving vehicles (up 17 percent). Falls from roofs, however, were down 13 percent from the number in 2006.

Workplace homicides increased by 13 percent in 2007. Even with the increase, workplace homicides have declined 44 percent from the high of 1,080 reported in 1994. Workplace homicides involving police officers and supervisors of retail sales workers both saw substantial increases in 2007.

Two other prominent events were at series lows in 2007. Fatal work injuries involving electrocutions were down 14 percent from the next lowest year (2003). Fatalities resulting from fires and explosions were also at the lowest totals ever in the census in 2007.

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