Revised BLS 2006 Stats Point to Rise, Not Decrease, in Workplace Deaths

April 18, 2008
Revised figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on workplace fatalities in 2006 indicate that the numbers were higher than previously thought: The final count of 5,840 means that the overall occupational fatality rate increased 2 percent between 2005 and 2006.

In August 2007, BLS released its preliminary figures, which indicated that there were 5,703 fatal work injuries in the United States in 2006, a decrease of 1 percent from 2005's workplace fatality count of 5,734 deaths.

Fatalities for Hispanic workers rose by 53 cases from the preliminary figure, bringing the total number for that group to 990 fatal work injuries. This increase pushed the rate of fatal injury for Hispanic workers to 5.0 per 100,000 employed workers, up from the previously reported rate of 4.7 per 100,000 employed workers for 2006.

The initial figure for Hispanic workers already was a series high, but it also showed that the number of all workplace fatalities had decreased, including declining rates for the Hispanic population. In 2005, 923 Hispanic workers were fatally injured on the job and the rate of fatal injury was 4.9 per 100,000 employed workers.

The number of fatal work injuries involving foreign-born workers also increased, from 997 cases to 1,046 cases as a result of the updates. Of the 1,046 cases involving foreign-born workers, 667 involved Hispanic or Latino workers. Both the foreign-born total and the Hispanic foreign-born total were new highs for the series.

Fatal occupational injuries in California increased by 89 cases from the preliminary figure. As a result, California surpassed Texas as the state with the highest number of fatal work injuries in 2006. The totals for Oregon (up by 15), Georgia (9), and Florida (5) also increased. Overall, 15 states reported increases as a result of the update process.

Fatalities in the transportation and material moving industry were up by 38 deaths, the largest revision in fatalities among the industries. It was followed by construction and extraction occupations (15 fatalities).

These revisions and additions result from the identification of new cases and the revision of existing cases based on source documents received after the release of preliminary results, BLS said.

After reviewing BLS's revised statistics, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, issued a statement, claiming the increase in figures demonstrated the need for OSHA and the Department of Labor to do a better job of enforcing safety and health laws.

“We must not forget that these are not just numbers – we’re talking about real people, and for every workplace death in this country, there is a family somewhere that is grieving,” Miller said. “There is no substitute for strong enforcement of the law, especially if we want to protect those workers who perform the most dangerous jobs and those workers who are the most vulnerable to exploitation.”

Miller also said the House Education and Labor Committee will hold a hearing on workplace injury, illness and fatality numbers in May.

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