Occupational Fatalities in Texas at an All-Time Low

September 22, 2003

In 2002 Texas recorded the lowest number of occupational fatalities since data collection began in 1990, according to the Texas Workers’ Compensation Commission.

A total of 417 fatal occupational injuries occurred, which represents a 22.2 percent decrease from 2001 (fatalities nationwide decreased by 6.6 percent). This is the second year in a row that occupational fatalities have decreased in Texas, after experiencing an all-time high in the year 2000 (572 fatalities). Significant reductions were found in almost all categories, including high-risk industries and occupations.

The TWCC compiles detailed information on all work-related fatalities occurring in Texas for the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), a program jointly administered with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This census is designed to produce accurate annual counts of private and public sector fatal workplace injuries using diverse sources. The fatality total represents the raw number of fatalities resulting from fatal injuries. This total is not representative of a rate or number per total workers. BLS usually computes fatality rate figures six months after release of initial data. TWCC annually releases total fatality counts and descriptive data in an effort to provide information aimed at preventing fatal work injuries and promoting occupational safety.

The construction industry recorded 113 fatalities, which was the highest number for any industry in 2002. This total amount reflected a decrease of 7 percent from the 2001 construction total. Fatalities occurring in the special trade contractors industry division accounted for 68 percent of construction sector fatalities. The leading causes of occupational fatalities in the construction industry were falls (38 percent) and transportation incidents (23 percent). The second highest number of fatalities occurred in the transportation industry (accounting for 16 percent of the overall total), followed by service industries (12 percent), and retail trade (10 percent). The most significant decrease in the number of fatalities from the year 2001 occurred in the mining industry (38 percent), followed by the manufacturing industry, which recorded a 36 percent decrease.

Transportation incidents continued to be the leading cause of occupational fatalities, resulting in 37 percent of the total. Sixty-eight percent of all transportation incidents occurred on highways and 20 percent involved pedestrian workers who were struck by vehicles or mobile equipment. Following transportation incidents, falls accounted for the second highest percentage of fatalities (17 percent). Fatalities that resulted from falls increased slightly from 13 percent in 2001 to 17 percent in 2002 despite the reduction in the number of fatalities overall. Most fatal falls occurred in the construction industry.

The occupations with the largest number of on-the-job fatalities in 2002 were truck drivers (16 percent), construction laborers (8 percent), and groundskeepers and gardeners (4 percent). Transportation incidents were the leading cause of death in all three occupations.

Men accounted for 93 percent of the recorded cases-with transportation incidents being the leading cause among men (36 percent) followed by falls (18 percent). Women accounted for 7 percent of the total and were victims of transportation incidents in 48 percent of the cases, and of assaults and violent acts in 45 percent. Fifty-percent of all fatalities were experienced by workers between 25 and 44 years of age, regardless of gender. White non-Hispanic workers comprised 53 percent of the total, Hispanics – 35 percent, and black non-Hispanics – 8 percent. Even though the total number of fatalities to Hispanic workers decreased 14 percent from 2001, their representation in the overall number of fatalities increased from 31 percent in 2001 to 35 percent in 2002.

To encourage injury prevention in the workplace, the Texas Workers’ Compensation Commission’s Health and Safety Division provides safety programs and services which include: free safety consultations, assistance to hazardous employers, accident prevention services for insurance companies, and safety education training and resources. Additional information may be obtained by contacting the commission at (512) 804-4200 or by e-mail at injury.analysis@twcc.state.tx.us.

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