Workplace Injuries in 2009 at Their Lowest Since Being First Compiled in 1992

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (B.L.S.) of the U.S. Department of Labor released its preliminary results of its 2009 National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries last month. A preliminary total of 4,340 fatal work injuries were recorded in the United States in 2009, down from a final count of 5,214 fatal work injuries in 2008. The 2009 total represents the smallest annual preliminary total since the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) program was first conducted in 1992. The B.L.S. suggested some economic explanations rather than better safety practices for the results.

The B.L.S. noted that total hours worked fell by 6 percent in 2009 following a 1 percent decline in 2008. In addition, some industries that have historically accounted for a significant share of fatal work injuries, such as construction, experienced even larger declines in employment or hours worked. Also, some source documents used by CFOI State partners to identify and verify fatal work injuries were delayed, due at least in part to fiscal constraints at some of the governmental agencies who regularly provide source documentation for the program.

The B.L.S. set forth what it labeled key preliminary findings: – Workplace homicides declined 1 percent in 2009, in contrast to an overall decline of 17 percent for all fatal work injuries. The homicide total for 2009 includes the 13 victims of the November shooting at Fort Hood.

Workplace suicides were down 10 percent in 2009 from the series high of 263 in 2008. – Though wage and salary workers and self-employed workers experienced similar declines in total hours worked in 2009, fatal work injuries among wage and salary workers in 2009 declined by 20 percent while fatal injuries among self-employed workers were down 3 percent. – The wholesale trade industry was one of the few major private industry sectors reporting higher numbers of fatal work injuries in 2009.

Fatal work injuries in the private construction sector declined by 16 percent in 2009 following the decline of 19 percent in 2008. – Fatalities among non-Hispanic black or African-American workers were down 24 percent. This worker group also experienced a slightly larger decline in total hours worked than non-Hispanic white or Hispanic workers. – The number of fatal workplace injuries in building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations rose 6 percent, one of the few major occupation groups to record an increase in fatal work injuries in 2009. Transportation incidents, which accounted for nearly two-fifths of all the fatal work injuries in 2009, fell 21 percent from the 2,130 fatal work injuries reported in 2008.

The three most dangerous occupations in the United States are being a fisherman, logger or aircraft pilot. Fishers and related fishing workers died from workplace injuries at the rate of 200 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers in 2009, according to the B.L.S., 60 times greater than the rate of 3.3 per 100,000 for the overall American work force. For loggers, the fatality rate was 61.8 per 100,000 and for aircraft pilots and flight engineers, 57.1 per 100,000.

The most common type of incident that causes workplace fatalities is highway accidents, with 20%. Homicides account for 20%; assaults and violent acts 18%; falls to lower level 12%; homicides 12%; being struck by objects 10%; exposure to harmful substances or environments 9%; and fires and explosions 3%. Fatal falls are down 27 percent from the series high of 847 fatal falls reported in 2007. Construction had the highest number of fatal injuries in 2009 (816), but not the highest rate of fatal injuries (9.7%). Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting had the highest fatal work injury rate (26%). Driver/sales workers and truck drivers had a high rate 18.3%. That construction number is an overall number the rate for those engaged in structural iron and steel work putting up steel frames for skyscrapers is 30.0. 34.7 deaths occurred for those engaged in roofing.

The occupations with the lowest rate of fatalities are education, training and library occupations, which with 0.3 deaths per 100,000. Business and financial operations have a rate of 0.4 fatalities from workplace injuries. New York, with 184 deaths, was one of thirty-seven States had fewer fatal workplace injuries in 2009 compared to 2008. Thirteen States and the District of Columbia had more fatal injuries in 2009 than in 2008. Gender also plays a big role, most likely because they work in the more dangerous jobs. The fatality rate from workplace injuries is more than nine times higher for men than for women: 5.5 per 100,000 for men, compared with 0.6 per 100,000 for women.

The personal injury lawyers at Levine & Slavit have decades of experience handling personal injury claims, including for workers injured at construction sitesand victims of motor vehicle accidents. For 50 years spanning 3 generations, we have obtained results for satisfied clients. Contact the personal injury lawyers at Levine & Slavit for their help. We have offices in Manhattan and Long Island, handling cases in New York City, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and surrounding areas. To learn more, watch our videos.

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