The number of workplace fatalities totaled 5,702 in 2005, down from 5,764 in 2004. The fatality rate also declined last year to 4.0 per 100,000 employees, down from 4.1 in 2004.
In other good news, fatal falls declined by 7 percent the bad news being that 2004 marked an all-time high for such injuries. Fatal falls among roofers, a group targeted by many OSHA outreach programs across the country, dropped by 44 percent in 2005.
The lowest-ever annual total for fatalities among women workers 402 was recorded in 2005, but fatalities among Hispanic workers continued to rise, possibly due in part to the increased employment of Hispanics in the workforce. When the increased number of Hispanic workers is taken into consideration, says OSHA, fatalities per capita are down for that worker population.
The bad news is an increase of fatal work injuries among worker under 20 years of age were up about 18 percent from 2004, for a total of 166 fatalities in 2005. Fatalities among agricultural workers were up 23 percent from 145 in 2004 to 178 in 2005.
On a somber, yet unusual note, some 29 fatal work injuries were attributed to hurricanes, though BLS warned "this total may rise as additional cases are identified and verified."
Overall, Edwin Foulke Jr., assistant secretary of Labor for OSHA, called the report "positive," noting the decrease in workplace fatalities is the third-lowest annual total recorded since BLS began collecting the data. "More importantly," said Foulke, "this shows that more men and women were able to return home safely from their jobs."
He noted that many of the agency's initiatives to reduce workplace fatalities "are showing tremendous successes, but there is still more work to do. The data released today highlight areas where our resources must be focused in order to eliminate fatalities on the job. We remain committed to doing just that."