BLS: Workers age 45+ have above-average fatality rates (6/8) June is National Safety Month. In recognition, here is a look at Bureau of Labor Statistics data on work-related fatalities and nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses, culled from a BLS press release.

The BLS Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries has produced comprehensive counts and rates of fatal work injuries since 1992. The census shows that the rate of fatal work injuries declined between 1992 and 2007, with much of the decline occurring during the first 10 years of the period. (The latest data available are for 2007; preliminary fatality data for 2008 will be released in August 2009.) A total of 5,657 workers were fatally injured on the job in 2007.

While the overall rate of fatal work injuries was 3.8 per 100,000 workers in 2007, there were differences in fatality rates by age. Workers age 45 and older had above-average fatality rates while those younger than 45 had below-average rates. Differences were most notable among the youngest and oldest age groups. Fatality rates are expressed in terms of employed workers and not adjusted for hours worked.

Labor laws prohibit the youngest workers from being employed in many hazardous occupations; in addition, the youngest workers typically work part time. In contrast to younger workers, workers age 65 and over may be more likely to be employed in certain occupations with higher-than-average fatality rates. For example, farmers and ranchers have an above-average fatality rate, and in 2007 over 25 percent of farmers and ranchers were 65 and over, whereas 4 percent of all workers were 65 and over (both of these employment figures are from the Current Population Survey). Also, older workers may be less likely to survive a severe workplace injury.

Occupations that have workplace fatality rates many times higher than the overall rate include fishers, logging workers, aircraft pilots and flight engineers, structural iron and steel workers, and farmers and ranchers. Though the fatality rate of driver/sales workers and truck drivers was less than half those of fishers, loggers, or pilots in 2007, driver/sales workers and truck drivers experienced a substantially larger number of fatalities because more people were employed in that occupation. Driver/sales workers and truck drivers accounted for about 1 in 6 of all on-the-job fatal work injuries.