BLS Records Lowest Ever Fatal Workplace Injuries

August 20, 2009 ( - Preliminary results of the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) show a total of 5,071 fatal work injuries were recorded in the United States in 2008, down from a total of 5,657 fatal work injuries reported for 2007 - and the smallest annual preliminary total since the census was first conducted in 1992.

A Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) news release said that 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 workers, down from the final rate of 4.0 in 2007.

BLS said economic factors likely played a role in the fatality decrease. Average hours worked at the national level fell by 1% 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 budget constraints at some governmental agencies may have delayed the receipt and processing of the documents that are used, according to BLS.

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

According to the news release, the 680 fatal falls in 2008 represent a 20% decline from the series high of 847 fatal falls in 2007. Meanwhile, workplace suicides rose from 196 cases in 2007 to 251 cases in 2008, an increase of 28% and the highest number ever reported by the fatality census.

Workplace homicides fell by 18% in 2008. Overall, the 2008 preliminary workplace homicide count (517 workplace homicides) represents a decline of 52% from the high of 1,080 homicides reported in 1994.

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

Overall, 90% of the fatal work injuries in 2008 involved workers in private industry, according to a BLS news release. The number of fatal work injuries in the private sector decreased 11% in 2008, and fatalities among government workers, including resident military personnel, decreased 4%.

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% in 2008. Fatalities in construction and extraction occupations, which accounted for nearly one-fifth of all work-related fatalities in 2008, decreased by 18% from the previous year.

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

While the number of fatal work injuries among White, non-Hispanic workers fell 8% in 2008, greater declines were observed among non-Hispanic Black or African American workers (down 16%) and Hispanic or Latino workers (down 17%). The number and rate of fatal work injuries among 16-to 17-year-old workers were higher in 2008.

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.

More information is available here .