Workplace Deaths Higher in 2004 but Still Comparatively Low

January 9, 2006 ( - While it's true that the total number of fatal work injuries in 2004 inched up 2% to 5,703, it was still the third-lowest annual total recorded by the government's 12-year-old annual fatality census.

Not only that, reported, but the rate at which fatal work injuries occurred in 2004 was 4.1 per 100,000 workers, down from 5.3 fatalities per 100,000 workers ten years earlier.

The mining industry has the second-highest fatality rate per 100,000 employees while only the agriculture industry (which includes forestry, fishing and hunting) has a higher rate of death on the job.

While the construction industry ranks fourth for the rate of fatal injuries per 100,000 workers, it recorded 1,224 fatal work injuries in 2004 – the most of any industry sector and an increase of 8% from a year earlier. In comparison, the mining industry recorded 152 fatal work injuries in 2004, while agriculture recorded 659 fatalities.

Also according to the data from the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, workplace homicides were down sharply to the lowest level ever recorded. Unfortunately, within that category, fatal injuries resulting from being struck by an object rose 12%, overtaking workplace homicide as the third-most-frequent type of fatal event.

By far, the majority of work-related fatalities were caused by highway incidents, according to the government data. In 2004, there were 1,374 fatal highway incidents, representing about one of every four fatal work injuries in 2004. The second-leading cause of death on the job involved falls, predominately from roofs or ladders. There were 815 fatal falls reported in 2004, a 17% increase over 2003.

According to Boston-based Liberty Mutual, a private provider of workers’ compensation insurance in the United States, on-the-job injuries cost employers a pretty penny. Workplace injuries cost employers nearly $1 billion per week in payments to injured employees and their medical care providers.