U.S. Workplace Deaths Top 4,500 in 2010
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U.S. Workplace Deaths Top 4,500 in 2010

By Roy Maurer  9/1/2011
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After falling to record lows in each of the two previous years, preliminary results from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) show little change in the number of workplace fatalities in 2010 compared with 2009. In 2010, 4,547 workers died from work-related injuries, down from a final count of 4,551 fatal work injuries in 2009.

The rate of fatal work injury for U.S. workers in 2010 was 3.5 per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, the same as the final rate for 2009.

Final 2010 CFOI data will be released in spring 2012.

Key Findings

Economic factors continue to play a role in the fatal work injury counts. Total hours worked were up slightly in 2010 in contrast to the declines recorded in both 2008 and 2009, but some historically high-risk industries continued to experience declines or slow growth in total hours worked.

Two high-profile disasters added to the death toll in 2010: The explosion of the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia, which killed 29 workers, and the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, which killed 11 workers. In all, the mining category, which includes coal mining as well as oil drilling, accounted for 172 fatalities last year, up from 99 in 2009.

The police profession was not far behind mining as a dangerous occupation, with the number of fatalities increasing by 40 percent to 134 last year from 96 in 2009.

Of the total police officers who died on the job in 2010, 57 cases involved highway incidents and 48 involved homicides.

Workplace homicides declined to their lowest total ever recorded by the census, dropping 7 percent in 2010 to 506. That was a decline of more than 50 percent from the high of 1,080 homicides reported in 1994. Workplace suicides declined slightly from 263 cases in 2009 to 258 cases in 2010. Even with the decline, the 2010 preliminary count of workplace suicides is the third highest annual total.

Other results include:

  • 4,192 men died on the job last year, compared to 355 women.
  • The number of fatal work injuries among the self-employed declined by 6 percent to 999 fatalities, while the number of fatal injuries among wage and salary workers increased by 2 percent to 3,548 in 2010.
  • Fatal work injuries in the private construction sector declined by 10 percent from 2009 to 2010 and are down nearly 40 percent since 2006.
  • Work-related fatalities resulting from fires more than doubled from 53 in 2009 to 109 in 2010, the highest count since 2003.
  • Fatal work injuries among non-Hispanic black or African-American workers declined by 9 percent in 2010 while fatalities among non-Hispanic white workers were higher by 2 percent. Fatal work injuries involving Hispanic or Latino workers were down 4 percent in 2010.
  • Transportation accidents decreased slightly but still accounted for almost two of every five fatalities in 2010.
  • Fatal falls declined 2 percent in 2010 (from 645 in 2009 to 635 in 2010).
  • Fatal work injuries in the professional and business services sector were down 16 percent.
  • Fatal injuries in the educational and health service industries were higher by 13 percent.
  • Fatal work injuries among government workers were up 3 percent in 2010, due largely to an increase in fatalities to state government workers from 75 in 2009 to 107 in 2010. Fatal work injuries incurred by local government workers were also higher in 2010, but fatal injuries among federal government workers were lower (down 21 percent to 96 fatal work injuries in 2010).

Roy Maurer is a staff writer for SHRM.




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