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Key data from 2008 fatal work injuries report (8/25)

August 25, 2009
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Significant findings culled for the recent Bureau of Labor Statistics annual report on workplace deaths:

  • Workplace suicides rose from 196 cases in 2007 to 251 cases in 2008, an increase of 28 percent and the highest number ever reported by the fatality census. Suicides among protective service occupations rose from 14 in 2007 to 25 in 2008.


  • Workplace homicides fell by 18 percent in 2008.


  • The number of fatal work injuries involving fires and explosions was up 14 percent in 2008.


  • The number of fatal work injuries in the private sector decreased 11 percent in 2008, and fatalities among government workers, including resident military personnel, decreased 4 percent.


  • While workers in construction incurred the most fatalities of any industry in the private sector in 2008, the number of fatalities in construction declined 20 percent, from 1,204 cases in 2007 to 969 cases in 2008.


  • Fatalities rose by 11 percent among private sector workers in the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industry sector in 2008 after declining in 2007.


  • Fatalities were also slightly higher in manufacturing (404 in 2008, up from 400 fatalities in 2007). Included in the manufacturing total are the 14 workers who perished in a sugar refinery explosion in Georgia in February 2008.


  • 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 percent in 2008.


  • Fatalities in construction and extraction occupations, which accounted for nearly one-fifth of all fatalities in 2008, decreased by 18 percent from the previous year. Construction laborer fatalities were down 31 percent (from 345 in 2007 to 239 in 2008). Carpenters, brick masons, electricians, roofers, pipe layers, plumbers, and extraction workers were among the other groups that saw declines in 2008.


  • First-line supervisors/managers of construction trades and extraction workers, construction equipment operators, and painters/paperhangers were among the occupational groups in construction and extraction that had higher numbers of fatal injuries in 2008.


  • Among the occupation groups with a higher number of fatalities in 2008 were farming, fishing, and forestry (up 6 percent) and management occupations (up 2 percent). Four occupations with particularly high fatality rates in 2008 were fishers and related fishing workers with a fatality rate of 128.9 per 100,000 FTE’s, logging workers (115.7), aircraft pilots and flight engineers (72.4), and structural iron and steel workers (46.4).


  • The number of fatalities declined for all age categories in 2008 except for 16 to 17 year-old workers. Fatality rates for 16 to 17 year-old workers rose from 1.9 in 2007 to 2.5 in 2008.


  • The Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, part of the BLS occupational safety and health statistics program, compiles a count of all fatal work injuries occurring in the U.S. during the calendar year. The program uses diverse State, federal, and independent data sources to identify, verify, and describe fatal work injuries. This assures counts are as complete and accurate as possible. For the 2008 data, over 20,000 unique source documents were reviewed as part of the data collection process.

    Another BLS program, the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, presents frequency counts and incidence rates by industry and also detailed case circumstances and worker characteristics of nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses that result in days away from work. Incidence rates for 2008 by industry will be published in October 2009, and information on 2008 case circumstances and worker characteristics will be available in November 2009.

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