Workplace Fatality Rate Increased in 2010; First Gain in Five Years, BLS Figures Show

2010 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries  


Key Finding: The 2010 fatality rate of 3.6 deaths for every 100,000 workers marks the first time the rate increased in the past five years.

What's Next: Preliminary figures for 2011 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics are expected in August.

By Bruce Rolfsen  

The on-the-job fatality rate increased during 2010 for the first time in the past five years, figures released April 25 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirmed.

The 2010 fatality rate was 3.6 deaths for every 100,000 workers, up from 2009's record low rate of 3.5, according to the final results of the 2010 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. Overall, 4,690 workers lost their lives in 2010, while 4,551 died the previous year.

The highest rates recorded since the BLS began started the calculation in 1992 was 5.0, reported for each of the years 1992 through 1995.

BLS, with the assistance of many state agencies, collects death information from various sources, including death certificates and newspaper stories. The preliminary survey of 2011 fatalities is expected to be issued in August.

Increase Predicted.

The 2010 increase was expected. When the BLS released its preliminary fatality data in August, the agency predicted the final report would show a higher rate (41 OSHR 760, 9/8/11).

Since the preliminary report was published, the BLS confirmed another 143 deaths.

Assaults and violent acts were responsible 24 newly added deaths; falls were the cause of 11 deaths.

More than half the newly listed deaths, 76 cases, resulted from highway traffic accidents, and another 15 fatalities were attributed to other transportation incidents. Overall in 2010, highway accidents took the lives of 1,044 workers, 6 percent more than 2009, but still the second-lowest total reported by the census, BLS said. The additional deaths pushed the fatality rate for workers in transportation and material moving occupations to 14.8 per 100,000, up from 2009's 13.6.

Fewer Construction Deaths.

While the construction industry experienced fewer deaths--774 in 2010 versus 834 in 2009--the fatality rate decrease was small, down by 0.1 to 9.8 for 2010, reflecting fewer jobs in the building trades.

The industry group with the highest fatality rate once again was agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting with a rate of 27.9 per 100,000, up from 27.2 the prior year.

When BLS broke down the totals by employment source, the data showed the 2010 fatality rate for wage-and-salary workers was 3.0, up from 2009's 2.8. The rate for self-employed workers was 12.6 in 2010, down slightly from 2009's 12.7.

Examining deaths by race, the agency found rates during 2010 were almost identical to 2009. The 2010 rates were 3.0 for black, non-Hispanic; 3.7 for white, non-Hispanic; and 3.9 for Hispanic/Latino. The number of deaths among black workers, 412, was the lowest tally ever for the BLS survey, the agency said.

Also largely unchanged were the rates for men and women. The fatality rate for women in 2010 was 0.6, the same as 2009. The rate for men in 2010 was 5.8, up 0.1 from 2009.

By Bruce Rolfsen  

The 2010 fatality census is available at