Final 2012 Data Show Steady Decline in Workplace Fatalities

By Roy Maurer Apr 29, 2014

The final count of fatal work injuries in the United States in 2012 was 4,628, up from the preliminary count of 4,383 reported in August 2013. The 2012 total was the second-lowest annual total recorded since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began conducting its Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) in 1992. The overall fatal work injury rate for the United States in 2012 was 3.4 fatal injuries per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, down slightly from the final rate of 3.5 reported for 2011. The final fatal work injury rate for 2012 is the lowest rate published by the program since the conversion to hours-based rates in 2006.

The final 2012 numbers include revisions and additions to the initial 2012 CFOI counts based on information received after the release of preliminary results.

Among the changes resulting from the updates:

  • The total number of contractors fatally injured on the job in 2012 rose from 708 to 715. Contract workers, many of whom worked in construction or transportation, accounted for over 15 percent of all fatal work injuries in 2012.
  • Roadway incidents were higher by 109 cases from the preliminary count, increasing the total number of fatal work-related roadway incidents in 2012 to 1,153 cases. The final 2012 total represented a 5 percent increase over the final 2011 count.
  • The number of fatal work injuries involving Hispanic workers grew by 40 after updates were added, bringing the total number of fatally injured Hispanic workers to 748. That total was about the same as the 2011 total (749), but the fatality rate for Hispanic workers declined to 3.7 per 100,000 FTE workers in 2012, down from 4.0 in 2011.
  • Work-related suicides increased by 24 cases to a total of 249 after updates were added.
  • Workplace homicides were higher by 12 cases after the updates, raising the workplace homicide total in 2012 to 475 cases.
  • An increase of 31 fatal work injuries in private-sector construction led to a revised count of 806 for that sector. The 2012 total was an increase of 9 percent over the 2011 total and represented the first increase in fatal work injuries in private construction since 2006. The previous five-year drop in private-sector construction fatalities was attributed to a decrease in employment.

Overall, 36 states revised their counts upward as a result of the revision process.

When the tens of thousands of workers who die each year from long-term occupational illnesses are considered, the death toll becomes much greater. More than 50,000 workers die annually when accounting for occupational injuries and illnesses, according to a report released by the National Council on Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH). The council relied on data from an analysis published by University of California Davis economist J. Paul Leigh in 2011, which estimated more than 53,000 deaths in 2007 from respiratory, cardiovascular and renal diseases, cancer, and other conditions which he concluded could be linked directly to workplace exposure.

“No one should have to risk their life simply to earn a living,” said Jessica Martinez, deputy director of National COSH, in the report. “Many of the injuries and illnesses that are killing American workers can be prevented. We know the safety systems, equipment and training that can stop people from dying on the job, and it’s absolutely urgent that we take action to protect workers and their families.” Martinez added that nearly 700 deaths could be prevented every year by adoption of a standard limiting workplace exposure to silica.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy


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