Workplace fatalities dip slightly

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According to new figures from the Labor Department, fatalities dipped slightly in 2011 at U.S. job sites and workplaces, including the construction industry.

The preliminary total of 4,609 fatal work injuries in the United States in 2011 was a slight decrease from a final count of 4,690 fatal work injuries in 2010, according to results from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), a program conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rate of fatal work injury for U.S. workers in 2011 was 3.5 per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, as compared to a final rate of 3.6 per 100,000 for 2010.

Key findings:

  • Fatal work injuries in the private construction sector declined to 721 in 2011 from 774 in 2010, a decline of 7 percent and the fifth consecutive year of lower fatality counts. Fatal construction injuries are down nearly 42 percent since 2006.
  • Fatal work injuries increased among non-Hispanic black or African-American workers and among Hispanic or Latino workers in 2011, but declined among non-Hispanic white workers (down 3 percent).
  • Fatal work injuries involving workers 55 years of age and older as well as workers under the age of 18 were both lower in 2011, but fatal work injuries among workers in the 20 to 24 age group were up nearly 18 percent.

Profile of 2011 fatal work injuries

Transportation incidents accounted for more than 2 out of every 5 fatal work injuries in 2011.  Of the 1,898 transportation-related incidents, about 57 percent (1,075 cases) were roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicles.

Fatal falls, slips, or trips took the lives of 666 workers in 2011, or about 14 percent of all fatal work injuries. Falls to lower level accounted for 541 of those fatalities. The revised Occupational Injury and Illness Classification System (OIICS) added the capability of recording the height of the fall. In 2011, the height of the fall was reported in 451 of the 541 fatal falls from higher level. Of those 451 cases, about one in four (115) occurred after a fall of 10 feet or less. Another fourth (118) occurred from a fall of over 30 feet.

A total of 472 workers were fatally injured after being struck by objects or equipment, including 219 workers who were struck by falling objects or equipment and 192 who were struck by powered vehicles or mobile equipment not in normal operation.  There were 152 multiple-fatality incidents in 2011 (incidents in which more than one worker was killed) in which 354 workers died.

For more detailed information on fatal injuries by incident, see the 2011 tables at www.bls.gov/iif/oshcfoi1.htm.

The number of fatal work injuries in the private construction sector declined by 7 percent in 2011. Fatal work injuries in construction have declined every year since 2006 and are down nearly 42 percent over that time. Economic conditions may explain much of this decline. Despite the lower fatal injury total, construction accounted for the second most fatal work injuries of any industry sector in 2011 with transportation and warehousing having the most fatal work injuries.

In 2011, CFOI began collecting additional information on fatally-injured workers who were working as contractors at the time of their deaths. Preliminary 2011 data show that 492 of the 4,609 fatally-injured workers were classified as contractors at the time of their fatal injuries. (For more information on contractor definitions and other new data elements please see http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshcfdef.htm .)

For more detailed information on fatal injuries by industry, see the 2011 tables at www.bls.gov/iif/oshcfoi1.htm 

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