Little Change in Worker Fatality Rate in 2011 Compared With Recent Years, BLS Reports

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The number of on-the-job deaths in 2011--4,609 fatalities--is little changed from the prior two years, according to the preliminary 2011 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries issued Sept. 20 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In 2010 4,690 people died from workplace injuries, and in 2009 the total was 4,551.

The preliminary fatality rate for 2011 was 3.5 deaths for every 100,000 workers, compared with 3.6 in 2010 and 3.5 in 2009 (42 OSHR 381, 4/26/12).

The numbers for 2011 are likely to increase as the Bureau of Labor Statistics collects more information about employee fatalities and releases its final tally in the spring. Over the past three years, about 166 deaths were added to preliminary total each year. If that expectation holds, 2011's total would reach 4,765.

Transportation Deaths Increased.

While the overall numbers were flat, there were industries with notable changes.

Fatalities in private truck transportation reached 474, an increase of 14 percent from 2010, the second consecutive year deaths grew, the BLS noted.

Construction industry fatalities declined to 721; that is 6.8 percent fewer than 2010's 774, and the fifth year of consecutive decreases. However, the construction industry's downturn since 2006 is believed to have been responsible for much of the decline, the BLS noted.

There were fewer mining and oil/gas drilling industry deaths. Fatalities for 2011 totaled 154, down 11 percent from 172 deaths in 2010. For the coal industry, alone, there were 17 deaths in 2011, compared with 43 in 2010, a total that included the 29 miners who died in the Upper Big Branch mine disaster.

Dangerous Industries.

However, mining continued to be among the most dangerous industries, with a fatality rate of 15.8 deaths for every 100,000 employees. Other dangerous industries and their fatality rates were: agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, 24.4 (557 deaths); transportation and warehousing, 15.0 (733 deaths); and construction, 8.9 (721 deaths).

Transportation accidents continued to be the leading cause of workers' deaths, responsible for 41 percent (1,898 deaths) of 2011's fatalities. Other common accidents were falls to lower levels, 12 percent (541 deaths); struck by object or equipment, 10 percent (472 deaths); homicide, 10 percent (458 deaths); and exposure to harmful substances or environments, 9 percent (401 deaths).

Men, by far, suffered most of the fatalities, 92 percent (4,234 deaths). Of the 375 women killed, 21 percent died from homicide, making murder the second-leading cause of death of among women. Transportation accidents were the most frequent cause of death among women, 27 percent.

By Bruce Rolfsen  

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