Fatal Work Injuries Decline Slightly in 2011

By Roy Maurer Sep 25, 2012

Preliminary results from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) released Sept. 20, 2012, show that the number of fatal work injuries in 2011 was slightly lower than final results from 2010. In 2011, 4,609 workers died from work-related injuries, according to the CFOI, down from a final count of 4,690 in 2010. The rate of fatal work injuries for U.S. workers in 2011 was 3.5 per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, as compared to a final rate of 3.6 per 100,000 FTEs for 2010.

That’s down 1.7 percent from 2010, and 22 percent from the 5,915 who were killed in work-related accidents in 2001.

Workplace fatalities have been falling almost every year since 1994, when they totaled 6,632.

“It’s a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done,” said Labor Department Secretary Hilda Solis in a statement. “We will continue to collaborate with employers, workers, labor leaders, and safety and health professionals to ensure that every American who clocks in for a shift can make it home safe and sound at the end of the day,” she said.

Final 2011 data from the CFOI program will be released in spring 2013.

Over the last three years, an average of 166 fatalities, or about 3 percent of the total, is added to the preliminary numbers.

Construction, Mining Fatalities Decline

Fatalities in the construction industry are continuing a downward trend, according to the report. In 2011, construction workplace deaths were down 6.8 percent, dropping from 774 in 2010 to 721 in 2011. The industry’s fatality rate per 100,000 FTEs was also down from 9.8 in 2010 to 8.9 in 2011.

Construction fatality rates are down for the fifth consecutive year with fatal construction injuries down nearly 42 percent since 2006. The construction industry’s economic downturn since 2006 is believed to have been responsible for much of the decline, the labor department said. However, even with the number of fatalities declining, construction still accounted for the second most fatal work injuries of any industry sector in 2011.

Fatal falls, slips or trips took the lives of 666 workers in 2011, or about 14 percent of all fatal work injuries. Falls to a lower level accounted for 541 of those fatalities. The revised Occupational Injury and Illness Classification System that the labor department used for 2011 added the capability of recording the height of the fall. In 2011, the height of the fall was reported in 451 of the 541 fatal falls from a higher level. Of those 451 cases, about one in four (115) occurred after a fall of 10 feet or less. Another one-fourth (118) occurred from a fall of over 30 feet.

A total of 472 workers were fatally injured after being struck by objects or equipment, including 219 workers who were struck by falling objects or equipment and 192 who were struck by powered vehicles or mobile equipment not in normal operation.

Private-sector mining fatalities were down 10 percent to 154 in 2011 from 172 in 2010 after rising 74 percent in 2010. Fatal work injuries were down sharply in coal mining to 17 in 2011 from 43 in 2010; the Upper Big Branch mining disaster in 2010 that killed 29 workers was a major factor in the high fatality counts in 2010. Fatal work injuries in support activities for mining were up 6 percent. Despite the decline, mining continued to be among the most dangerous industries, with a fatality rate of 15.8 deaths for every 100,000 FTEs.

Fatalities in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting were down by 10 percent to 557 in 2011 from 621 in 2010, led by a sharp drop in crop production fatalities. Manufacturing fatalities were also slightly lower.

The Deadliest Jobs

According to the report, the most common dangerous workplace activity is driving.

Fatal work injuries in private truck transportation rose 14 percent in 2011, the second consecutive year that counts have risen in this sector after reaching a low in 2009.

Accidents on the road represented almost one-quarter of all work-related deaths.

The Department of Transportation issued new rules last year aimed at improving trucker safety. The rules limited the amount of hours truckers are on the road to eight before they are required to rest for at least 30 minutes. They also are prohibited from driving more than 70 hours in one week.

Overall, 780 workers were killed as a result of violence and other injuries by persons or animals, including 458 homicides and 242 suicides. Shootings were the most frequent manner of death in both homicides (78 percent) and suicides (45 percent). Another 37 deaths were due to animal- or insect-related incidents.

The 10 deadliest occupations, according to the data are:

1.Fishermen, with a fatality rate of 121 per 100,000 workers. Forty fishermen died in 2011, but changes to the fishing quota system have helped save lives.

2.Loggers, of which 67 died in 2011, a fatality rate of 102 per 100,000 workers.

3.Pilots, especially in the skies over Alaska, where many of the overall 72 fatalities occurred in 2011, a fatality rate of 57 per 100,000 workers.

4.Sanitation workers, of which 34 died in 2011, mostly getting hit by cars and trucks, a fatality rate of 41 per 100,000 workers.

5.Roofers, with a fatality rate of 32 per 100,000 workers. Fifty-six roofers died on the job in 2011.

6.Iron workers, with a fatality rate of 27 per 100,000 workers. Sixteen workers died in 2011, mostly from falls and electrocutions from contacts with power lines.

7.Farmers and ranchers, with 260 fatalities in 2011, and a fatality rate of 25 per 100,000 workers.

8.Truckers, with the highest death toll of any occupation—759—and a fatality rate of 24 per 100,000 workers.

9.Electrical power line workers, of which 27 died in 2011, a fatality rate of 20 per 100,000 workers.

10.Taxi drivers, who risk being the victims of crime. Sixty-three drivers died in 2011, a fatality rate of 20 per 100,000 workers.

Demographics of 2011 Workplace Fatalities

The number of fatal work injuries in 2011 involving non-Hispanic white workers (3,257) declined slightly, and rose slightly for black workers (433). For black workers, this increase follows three years of declining numbers of fatal injuries.

Fatal work injuries among Hispanic workers rose to 729 in 2011 from 707 in 2010, an increase of 3 percent. The higher count in 2011 was the first increase in fatal injuries for Hispanic workers since 2006. Of the 729 fatal work injuries involving Hispanics, 500 (69 percent) involved foreign-born workers. Overall, there were 823 fatal work injuries involving foreign-born workers in 2011, most of whom (338 or 41 percent) were born in Mexico.

Fatal work injuries were higher for workers 20 to 24 years of age, rising to 288 in 2011 from 245 in 2010, an increase of 18 percent. For workers 55 years of age or older and workers under the age of 18, fatal work injuries were down. Fatal work injuries involving women increased slightly in 2011 to 375, but declined by 2 percent for men to 4,234 in 2011 from 4,322 in 2010.

Men, by far, experienced most of the fatalities overall at 92 percent (4,234 deaths).

Of the 375 fatal work injuries involving female workers overall, 21 percent involved homicides. In nearly two out of every five homicides involving female workers, the assailants were relatives, with almost all of the relatives being spouses or domestic partners (current and former). Robbers were the assailants in another 22 percent of these fatalities.

For male workers, homicides accounted for approximately 9 percent of all fatal injuries.

In contrast to female workers, relatives accounted for only about 2 percent of assailants. Robbers were the assailants in over one-third of the homicide cases involving male workers.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Related Article:

U.S. Workplace Deaths Top 4,500 in 2010, SHRM Online Safety & Security Discipline, September 2011

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