Fatal Work Injuries Dropped 10% in 2008; Down 20% in Construction

August 20, 2009

A total of 5,071 fatal work injuries were recorded in the U.S. in 2008, down about 10 percent from a total of 5,657 fatal work injuries reported for 2007, according to preliminary government figures.

Based on these preliminary counts, the rate of fatal injury for U.S. workers in 2008 was 3.6 fatal work injuries per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, down from the final rate of 4.0 in 2007.

This figure represents the smallest annual preliminary total since the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) program was first conducted in 1992. Final results for 2008 will be released in April 2010.

Federal officials said economic factors likely played a role in the fatality decrease. Average hours worked at the national level fell by one percent in 2008, and some industries that have historically accounted for a significant share of worker fatalities, such as construction, experienced larger declines in employment or hours worked.

In addition, the researchers suggested that budget constraints at some of the governmental reporting agencies may have delayed the classifying of cases.

Key findings of the 2008 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries:

  • Fatal work injuries in the private construction sector in 2008 declined by 20 percent from the updated 2007 total, twice the all-worker decline of 10 percent.
  • Fatal workplace falls, which had risen to a series high in 2007, also declined by 20 percent in 2008.
  • Workplace suicides were up 28 percent to a series high of 251 cases in 2008, but workplace homicides declined 18 percent in 2008.
  • The number and rate of fatal work injuries among 16 to 17 year-old workers were higher in 2008.
  • Fatal occupational injuries involving Hispanic or Latino workers in 2008 were 17 percent lower than in 2007.
  • Fatalities among non-Hispanic Black or African American workers were down 16 percent.
  • The number of fatal workplace injuries in farming, fishing, and forestry occupations rose 6 percent in 2008 after declining in 2007.
  • Transportation incidents, which accounted for approximately two-fifths of all the workplace fatalities in 2008, fell 13 percent from the previous series low of 2,351 cases reported in 2007.

Most types of transportation fatalities saw decreases in 2008 relative to 2007, including highway incidents (down 19 percent); railway incidents (down 31 percent); workers struck by vehicle or mobile equipment (down 7 percent); and nonhighway incidents such as tractor overturns (down 4 percent). Aircraft-related fatalities were higher in 2008 (189 incidents in 2008, up from 174 incidents in 2007), as were water vehicle incidents.

The 680 fatal falls in 2008 represent a 20 percent decline from the series high of 847 fatal falls in 2007. Fatal falls to a lower level, which accounted for 85 percent of all falls, were down 23 percent in 2008. Fatal falls from roofs were down 26 percent and falls from ladders decreased by 14 percent. The number of fatal falls on same level (to a floor or walkway or against an object) increased slightly in 2008.

Workplace suicides rose from 196 cases in 2007 to 251 cases in 2008, an increase of 28 percent and the highest number ever reported by the fatality census. Suicides among protective service occupations rose from 14 in 2007 to 25 in 2008. Workplace homicides fell by 18 percent in 2008. Overall, the 2008 preliminary workplace homicide count (517 workplace homicides) represents a decline of 52 percent from the high of 1,080 homicides reported in 1994.

The number of fatal work injuries involving fires and explosions was up 14 percent in 2008; fatalities involving contact with objects or equipment were also up slightly in 2008.

Profile of fatal work injuries by industry

Overall, 90 percent of the fatal work injuries involved workers in private industry. Service-providing industries in the private sector recorded 46 percent of all fatal work injuries in 2008, while goods-producing
industries recorded 43 percent. Ten percent of the fatal work injury cases in 2008 involved government workers.

The number of fatal work injuries in the private sector decreased 11 percent in 2008, and fatalities among government workers, including resident military personnel, decreased 4 percent. Fatality rates were lower in 2008 for both goods-producing industries and service-providing industries, but remained unchanged for civilian government workers.

While workers in construction incurred the most fatalities of any industry in the private sector in 2008, the number of fatalities in construction declined 20 percent, from 1,204 cases in 2007 to 969 cases in 2008.

Fatalities involving workers in the construction of buildings were down 21 percent from 2007, with most of the decrease occurring in residential building construction (down 28 percent to 93 cases). Heavy and civil engineering construction was down 14 percent, and the subsector with the largest number of fatalities, specialty trade
contractors, had 19 percent fewer fatalities in 2008 than in 2007.

Fatalities rose by 11 percent among private sector workers in the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industry sector in 2008 after declining in 2007. Fatalities to workers in crop production led the
increase, rising 18 percent, while fatalities to workers in animal production declined 8 percent. Fishing and logging, two of the industries with the highest fatality rates, had higher numbers of fatalities in 2008.

Fatalities were also slightly higher in manufacturing (404 in 2008, up from 400 fatalities in 2007). Included in the manufacturing total are the 14 workers who perished in a sugar refinery explosion in Georgia
in February 2008.

Among service-providing industries, workers in the transportation and warehousing sector incurred 762 fatalities, a 14 percent decrease. Truck transportation, the largest subsector in transportation
and warehousing, had a 20 percent decrease in fatalities in 2008. Among other transportation sectors, workers in air and water transportation industries incurred fewer fatalities in 2008, but the number of fatal work injuries in rail transportation increased.

Both wholesale and retail trade had fewer fatal work injuries in 2008 than in 2007. Fatalities were down 17 percent in retail trade and 15 percent in wholesale trade in 2008.

Other service-providing industry sectors with large declines in 2008 included the information industry (down 43 percent), professional and business services (down 18 percent), the leisure and hospitality
industry (down 10 percent), and educational and health services (down 8 percent). Fatalities in the finance and insurance sector were down nearly 50 percent in 2008, from 46 to 24 fatalities.

Fatalities among government workers were down 4 percent. While fatalities incurred by federal and local government workers decreased in 2008, fatalities among state government workers were at the highest level since 1998 (115 fatal work injuries in 2008).

Profile of fatal work injuries by occupation

About one-fourth of all occupational fatalities in 2008 involved workers in transportation and material moving occupations, though fatalities among these workers declined by 12 percent in 2008. Driver/sales workers and truck drivers, the largest occupation group in this sector, led the decline with 16 percent fewer fatal work injuries in 2008 than in 2007. Heavy and tractor-trailer truck driver fatalities were lower by 13 percent.

Fatalities in construction and extraction occupations, which accounted for nearly one-fifth of all fatalities in 2008, decreased by 18 percent from the previous year. Construction laborer fatalities were
down 31 percent (from 345 in 2007 to 239 in 2008). Carpenters, brick masons, electricians, roofers, pipe layers, plumbers, and extraction workers were among the other groups that saw declines in 2008.
First-line supervisors/managers of construction trades and extraction workers, construction equipment operators, and painters/ paperhangers were among the occupational groups in construc tion and extraction that had higher numbers of fatal injuries in 2008.

Fatal work injuries among protective service occupations fell by 13 percent in 2008 after rising 22 percent from 2006 to 2007. Fewer fatalities among law enforcement workers (down 15 percent), fire fighting and prevention workers (down 14 percent), and security guards (down 23 percent) led the decline in this occupational group.

Among the occupation groups with a higher number of fatalities in 2008 were farming, fishing, and forestry (up 6 percent) and management occupations (up 2 percent). Four occupations with particularly high fatality rates in 2008 were fishers and related fishing workers with a fatality rate of 128.9 per 100,000 FTE’s, logging
workers (115.7), aircraft pilots and flight engineers (72.4), and structural iron and steel workers (46.4).

Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia reported lower numbers of fatal work injuries in 2008 than in 2007, 14 states reported higher numbers, and one state was unchanged.

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.