Fatal Workplace Injuries Drop Slightly, Census Reports

August 10, 2007

The Department of Labor’s BLS National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries for 2006 released today show 5,703 people died from on-the-job injuries in 2006 compared with 5,734 in 2005. The rate of fatal work injuries in 2006 was 3.9 per 100,000 workers, down from a rate of 4.0 per 100,000 in 2005, BLS reported.

The overall fatal work injury rate for the U.S. in 2006 was lower than the rate for any year since the fatality census was first conducted in 1992.

Fatal highway incidents remained the number one cause of on-the-job deaths claiming 1,329 lives, accounting for nearly one out of four fatal work injuries. While fatal highway incidents remained the most frequent type of fatal work-related event, the number of highway incidents fell 8 percent in 2006. The number of fatal highway
incidents in 2006 was the lowest annual total since 1993. Nonhighway incidents (such as those that might occur on a farm or industrial premises) remained at about the same level in 2006. Work-related pedestrian fatalities were lower.

Falls ranked second, increasing 5 percent in 2006, claiming 809 lives. The 809 fatal falls in 2006 was the third highest total since 1992, when the fatality census began. Fatal falls from roofs increased
from 160 fatalities in 2005 to 184 in 2006, a rise of 15 percent.

Being struck by objects ranked third, with 583 fatalities, although the number of workers who were fatally injured from being struck by objects was lower in 2006, after increasing for the last three years. The 583 fatalities resulting from being struck by objects in 2006 represented a 4 percent decline from the 2005 total.

Workplace homicides ranked fourth claiming the lives of 516 workers, with more than 80 percent of those workers being shot. However, the number of workplace homicides in 2006 was a series low and reflected a decline of over 50 percent from the high reported in 1994, the Census reported.

Fatalities involving fires and explosions increased by 26 percent in 2006, rising from 159 in 2005 to 201 in 2006. Fatalities resulting from exposure to harmful substances or environments were also higher in 2006, led by a 12 percent increase in exposure to caustic, noxious, or allergenic substances (from 136 in 2005 to 153 in 2006).

Other key findings

–Coal mining industry fatalities more than doubled in 2006, due to the Sago Mine disaster and other multiple-fatality coal mining incidents.

–Fatalities among workers under 25 years of age fell 9 percent, and the rate of fatal injury among these workers was down significantly.

–The 937 fatal work injuries involving Hispanic or Latino workers in 2006 was a series high, but the overall fatality rate for Hispanic or Latino workers was lower than in 2005.

–Fatalities among self-employed workers declined 11 percent and reached a series low in 2006.

–Aircraft-related fatalities were up 44 percent, led by a number of multiple-fatality events including the August 2006 Comair crash.

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) President Michael W. Thompson, CSP, applauded the apparent drop in workplace fatalities but noted that even one fatality is too many.

“Business and labor must continue to work together with government to reach the ultimate goal of zero fatalities,” Thompson said. “The BLS report noted that 5,703 people lost their lives on-the-job in 2006. The report indicated the number one activity in the workplace that led to fatalities was again transportation incidents.

“Globally our members work everyday in a prevention mode to achieve the goal that everyone goes to and returns home from work safely every day,” Thompson said. “They work in every industry and throughout the world. And every day we are looking for and implementing new and innovative ideas aimed at preventing injuries and illnesses in the workplace.”

In all, 27 states reported higher fatality numbers in 2006, while 23 states and Washington, D.C. recorded lower totals, ASSE reported. Texas had the highest number of worker fatalities with 486 followed by California with 448 and Florida with 355. The 12 states recording an increase in fatalities by 20 percent or more were Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia.

“We applaud those states that continue to see a drop in worker accidents and fatalities, such as Alabama, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Jersey, South Carolina, Wisconsin and Wyoming and the District of Columbia which recorded declines of 20 percent or more,” Thompson added.

Source: BLS, ASSE

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.