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BLS: fatal falls and workplace homicides increased in '07 (8/21)

August 21, 2008
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A total of 5,488 fatal work injuries were recorded in the United States in 2007, a decrease of 6 percent from the revised total of 5,840 fatal work injuries reported for 2006. While these results are considered preliminary, this figure represents the smallest annual preliminary total since the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) program was first conducted in 1992. Final results for 2007 will be released in April 2009.

Based on these preliminary counts, the rate of fatal injury for U.S. workers in 2007 was 3.7 fatal work injuries per 100,000 workers, down from the final rate of 4.0 per 100,000 workers in 2006, and the lowest annual fatality rate ever reported by the fatality census.

The four occupations with the highest fatality rates were fishers and related fishing workers with a fatality rate of 111.8 per 100,000 workers, logging workers (86.4), aircraft pilots and flight engineers (66.7), and structural iron and steel workers (45.5).

The number of fatal falls in 2007 rose to a series high of 835 — a 39 percent increase since 1992 when the CFOI program was first conducted.

Transportation incidents, which typically account for two-fifths of all workplace fatalities, fell to a series low of 2,234 cases in 2007.

Workplace homicides rose 13 percent to 610 in 2007 after reaching a series low of 540 in 2006.

The number of fatal workplace injuries among protective service occupations rose 19 percent in 2007 to 337, led by an increase in the number of police officers fatally injured on the job.

Fatal occupational injuries incurred by non-Hispanic Black or African American workers were at the highest level since 1999, but fatal work injuries among Hispanic workers were lower by 8 percent in 2007.

Nearly all types of transportation fatalities saw sizable decreases in 2007 relative to 2006, including nonhighway incidents (down 15 percent); workers struck by vehicle, mobile equipment (down 10 percent); water vehicle incidents (down 28 percent); railway incidents (down 26 percent); and aircraft incidents (down 23 percent). Highway incidents also decreased, but only by 3 percent.

The 835 fatal falls in 2007 represented a series high for the fatality census. The increase for falls overall was driven primarily by increases in falls on same level (up 21 percent from 2006) and falls from nonmoving vehicles (up 17 percent). Falls from roofs, however, were down 13 percent from the number in 2006.

The 835 fatal falls in 2007 represented a series high for the fatality census. The increase for falls overall was driven primarily by increases in falls on same level (up 21 percent from 2006) and falls from nonmoving vehicles (up 17 percent). Falls from roofs, however, were down 13 percent from the number in 2006.

Workplace homicides increased by 13 percent in 2007. Even with the increase, workplace homicides have declined 44 percent from the high of 1,080 reported in 1994. Workplace homicides involving police officers and supervisors of retail sales workers both saw substantial increases in 2007.

Two other prominent events were at series lows in 2007. Fatal work injuries involving electrocutions were down 14 percent from the next lowest year (2003). Fatalities resulting from fires and explosions were also at the lowest totals ever in the census in 2007.

Overall, 90 percent of the fatal work injuries involved workers in private industry. Service-providing industries in the private sector recorded 48 percent of all fatal work injuries in 2007, while goods-producing industries recorded 42 percent. Another 10 percent of the fatal work injury cases in 2007 involved government workers. The number of fatal work injuries in the private sector decreased 7 percent in 2007, while fatalities among government workers, including resident military personnel, increased 2 percent.

Fatalities declined in the construction industry, but construction continued to incur the most fatalities of any industry in the private sector, as it has for the five years since the CFOI program began using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) to categorize industry. The percentage decrease in fatalities from 2006 (1,239 to 1,178,a 5 percent drop) was about the same as the decrease for all fatal work injuries in 2007.

Of the three major subsectors within construction, fatalities among workers in construction of buildings actually rose 11 percent from 2006, with most of the increase in non-residential construction industries. The largest construction subsector, specialty trade contractors, had 6 percent fewer fatalities in 2007 as compared to 2006.

Fatalities among private sector workers in transportation and warehousing sector, which had the second largest number of fatalities, decreased 3 percent from the number reported in 2006. Truck transportation, the largest subsector in transportation and warehousing, also had a 3 percent decrease in 2007. The number of fatal injuries in air, rail, and water transportation were also lower.

Fatalities were down 13 percent among private sector workers in the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industry sector in 2007. Non-highway incidents in agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting decreased 17 percent, and incidents of being struck by an object decreased 12 percent, each of which accounts for about one-fifth of fatalities in the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industry. Fatalities to workers in crop production fell 19 percent while fatalities to workers in animal production rose 7 percent. Fishing and logging, two of the industries with the highest fatality rates, had lower numbers of fatalities in 2007.

In the trade industry (wholesale and retail), fatal work injuries were down 8 percent from their 2006 level. While most wholesale trade subsectors declined, fatal work injuries in retail grocery stores were up 26 percent (from 57 in 2006 to 72 in 2007), due largely to an increase in workplace homicides in that industry.

The preliminary total of 392 fatal work injuries in manufacturing represents the lowest total recorded in the five years since the CFOI program began using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). The 2007 total for manufacturing represents a 14 percent decrease from the 2006 count.

Fatalities among government workers were up 2 percent from 2006, primarily due to a 14 percent increase in workplace fatalities among local government workers. The increase among local government workers was primarily attributable to higher numbers of fatalities in police protection and fire protection (up 32 and 43 percent, respectively). Fatal work injury rates were lower for Federal and State workers.

About one-fourth of all occupational fatalities in 2007 involved workers in transportation and material moving occupations, though fatalities among these workers declined by 5 percent in 2007. This decline was largely the result of a 6 percent decline in highway incidents, which account for about 50 percent of the fatalities in this occupation. Construction and extraction occupations, which accounted for 21 percent of all fatalities, decreased by 10 percent from 2006 to 2007 after increasing the previous 3 years. Operating engineers and other construction equipment operators; painters, construction and maintenance; and electricians all saw decreases of 20 percent or more.

Fatalities among workers employed in protective service occupations rose 19 percent from 2006 to 2007, including police officers (up 30 percent), fire fighters (up 17 percent), and security guards (up 11 percent). Among other occupation groups, fatalities incurred by workers in sales and related occupations decreased 2 percent although fatalities incurred by supervisors of sales workers increased by 10 percent. Office and administrative support occupations had 50 percent more workplace fatalities in 2007 (from 88 in 2006 to 132 in 2007), due in part to an increase in fatal transportation incidents.

While fatal work injuries in general fell 6 percent, those incurred by non-Hispanic Black or African American workers increased by 5 percent to 591 in 2007. This is the highest number reported for Black or African American workers since 1999.

A tripling in the number of fatalities involving Black or African American police officers in local government (from 6 to 18) was one of the reasons for the higher number of fatalities. Fatalities among Hispanic or Latino workers decreased 8 percent from 2006 and among White, non-Hispanic workers by 6 percent.

While fatalities incurred by workers age 65 and older decreased 7 percent, these workers were about 3 times more likely than all workers to be killed on the job. Self-employed workers had a 2 percent drop in fatalities, while their wage and salary counterparts fell by 7 percent. Workplace fatalities incurred by both male and female workers decreased 6 percent.

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