According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, released last week, the overall fatal work injury rate for the U.S. in 2006 dropped to 3.9 per 100,000 workers, down from a rate of 4.0 per 100,000 in 2005. It’s the lowest fatality rate level since BLS began collecting data in 1992.

There were 5,703 fatal work injuries in the United States in 2006, down slightly from the revised total of 5,734 fatalities in 2005. These numbers are preliminary and will be updated next April.

Key findings of the 2006 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries include:

• The number of workplace homicides in 2006 was a series low and reflected a decline of more than 50 percent from the high reported in 1994.

• Fatalities among workers under 25 years of age fell 9 percent, and the rate of fatal injury among these workers was down significantly.

• The 937 fatal work injuries involving Hispanic or Latino workers in 2006 (up from 923 in 2005) was a series high, but due to increased employment the overall fatality rate for Hispanic or Latino workers was lower than in 2005.

• While fatal highway incidents remained the most frequent type of fatal work-related event, accounting for nearly 25 percent of fatal work injuries, the number of highway incidents fell 8 percent in 2006.

• Fatal work injuries involving falls increased 5 percent in 2006 after a sharp decrease in 2005. The 809 fatal falls in 2006 was the third highest total since 1992.

• The number of workers who were fatally injured from being struck by objects was lower in 2006, after increasing for the last three years. The 583 fatalities resulting from being struck by objects in 2006 represented a 4 percent decline from 2005.

• Fatalities involving fires and explosions increased by 26 percent in 2006, rising from 159 in 2005 to 201 in 2006.

Commenting on the overall fatality rate decline, OSHA chief Edwin G. Foulke Jr. said: “We are pleased to see both the rate and number of fatal work injuries continue to decline. More working men and women are returning to their loved ones at the end of the work day. While these figures demonstrate progress, we still have a long way to go. We believe our initiatives are working. However, even one fatality is one too many. To end fatalities, injuries and illnesses on the job, nothing is more effective than prevention. We remain committed to helping all employers protect their most valuable resource — their employees.”