Report: Workplaces Safer in 2002 With Fatality Decline

September 23, 2003 ( - A new government report indicates that US workplaces are apparently getting safer with the lowest workplace fatality rate in the decade since officials have been keeping track.

The US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in its 2002 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries that there were 5,524 fatal work injuries during the year, a 6.6%-decline from the year before. That was the lowest ever in a BLS census, which has been conducted since 1992 and represented a new low of four such deaths per 100,000 in 2002.

In 2001, 5,915 fatal work injuries occurred, excluding the 2,886 work-related fatalities that resulted from the September 11 terrorist attacks, which were tabulated separately, the BLS said. The comparisons in this latest survey do not include the fatalities related to the terrorist attacks.

2002 fatal highway incidents were down 3% from 2001, but continued to be the most frequent type of fatal workplace event in 2002, accounting for about a quarter of all work deaths. Other types of fatal transportation events also declined, including aircraft incidents (down 22%) and workers struck by vehicle or mobile equipment (down 7%). Overall, fatal work injuries from transportation incidents declined for the fourth year in a row, from 2,645 in 1998 to 2,381 in 2002.

Workplace homicides were down about 5% over the year, from 643 in 2001 to 609 in 2002. The number of workplace homicides in 2002 was the lowest recorded in the fatality census and represented a 44%-decline from the high of 1,080 workplace homicides recorded in 1994. Workplace suicides also were down in 2002.

Deaths resulting from falls were down in 2002 for the first time since 1998, from 810 in 2001 to 714 in 2002, a drop of 12%. Virtually all types of fatal falls declined in 2002, though falls from ladders and falls from nonmoving vehicles increased slightly.

The only major fatality event recording an increase was exposure to harmful substances or environments (up 8%). The increase in this event category was led by a sharp increase in the number of fatalities involving contact with temperature extremes (such as heat stroke), which increased from 35 fatalities in 2001 to 60 in 2002. Electrocutions also increased slightly in 2002.

Construction Highest in Deaths

Construction continued to record the highest number of fatal injuries of any major industry, although the total for construction was down 9% from the series high recorded in 2001. Fatal work injuries in mining also were lower, due to declines in coal mining and in oil and gas extraction. Fatal work injuries in manufacturing, transportation and public utilities, retail and wholesale trade, services, and government also declined from 2001 levels.

Fatal work injuries in the agriculture, forestry, and fishing industry increased about 6% in 2002, due to increases in forestry and in agricultural crop production work deaths. Fatal work injuries in commercial fishing – historically one of the more hazardous professions – were down sharply, from 60 in 2001 to 31 in 2002.

Rates of fatal work injury in 2002 were highest in the mining, agriculture/forestry/fishing, construction, and transportation/public utilities industries. The mining industry recorded a rate of 23.5 fatal work injuries per 100,000 workers in 2002, the highest of any major industry, but down about 22% from the rate recorded in 2001. Fatal work injury rates for all other major industries also were down in 2002, except in finance, insurance, and real estate (unchanged) and in transportation and public utilities (up slightly).

More information about the fatality census is available at .