Monday, August 29, 2005

Workplace Deaths Up in '04

5,703 workers died from work-related injuries last year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2004 National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI). This was an increase of 2% over 2003 and the rate also rose from 4.0 per 100,000 workers in 2002 and 2003 to 4.1 last year. This was the second year in a row that the number of workers killed on the job went up, but it was the first increase in the fatality rate since 1994. Fatalities among Hispanic workers also rose sharply after declining in 2002 and 2003.

The report was released last week and I almost missed it. Usually, I'm alerted by an OSHA press release and accompanying fanfare, but it seems OSHA only issues press releases about national workplace fatality statistics when fatalities go down, not up. Last year, for example, then Assistant Secretary of Labor John Henshaw boasted that
American workers remain safer than they were just a few years ago. The BLS data released today show that the fatal injury rate held steady at 4.0 per 100,000 workers - identical to 2002 and the lowest rate recorded since the fatality census began in 1992.

We are also encouraged by our continued progress in reducing fatalities among Hispanic workers. Fatalities among Hispanic workers dropped notably for the second straight year, after several years of increases. Fatalities among foreign-born Hispanics also dropped for the first time ever. There were fewer deaths from falls and harmful environments while deaths as a result of assaults and violent acts rose by 61.
This year, it's more like the Sounds of Silence...and for good reason.

Here are some of the key findings for 2004:
  • Fatal work injuries among Hispanic workers were up 11 percent in 2004 after declining the previous two years.
    The number of fatal work injuries involving Hispanic or Latino workers was sharply higher in 2004 after declining for the two previous years. The number of fatally injured Hispanic or Latino workers rose from 794 in 2003 to 883 in 2004, an increase of 11 percent. The rate of fatal work injuries among Hispanic or Latino workers rose from 4.5 per 100,000 workers in 2003 to 4.9 per 100,000 in 2004. Although homicides to Hispanic or Latino workers were down 27 percent from 2003, increases in the number of fatal work injuries resulting from falls (up 27 percent), transportation incidents (up 27 percent), and contact with objects or equipment (up 14 percent) led to the higher number of fatal work injuries among this population.
  • Workplace homicides were down sharply in 2004 to the lowest level ever recorded by the fatality census.
    The 551 workplace homicides in 2004 represented a 13 percent decline from 2003 and was the lowest annual total yet recorded by the fatality census. Overall, workplace homicides are down 49 percent from the high of 1,080 workplace homicides recorded in 1994
  • Fatal work injuries resulting from being struck by an object rose 12 percent in 2004, and overtook workplace homicide as the third most frequent type of fatal event.

  • Fatal falls increased by 17 percent to a new series high, led by increases in the number of fatal falls from ladders and from roofs.
    The increase in fatal falls was led by a 39 percent increase in the number of workers who were fatally injured after a fall from a roof (from 128 fatalities in 2003 to 178 in 2004) and a 17 percent increase in the number of fatal falls from ladders (from 114 fatalities in 2003 to 133 in 2004). The totals for falls from roofs and for falls from ladders represented new series highs for these events.About 88 percent of the fatal falls from roofs involved construction workers, compared with about 54 percent for fatal falls overall.
  • The number of fatal work injuries in the construction sector rose 8 percent in 2004, but because of employment increases in this sector, the fatality rate for construction was not significantly higher than the rate reported in 2003.
    Construction and extraction occupations accounted for the second highest number of fatal work injuries among major occupational groups in 2004 (1,129 fatalities, up from 1,038 in 2003). Fatal work injuries among construction trade workers rose from 788 in 2003 to 870 in 2004 and accounted for most of the increase for this occupational group. The 94 fatal work injuries involving roofers was a sharp increase from the 55 fatal work injuries recorded in 2003 and accounted for nearly half of the increase among construction trade workers.


    The construction industry sector recorded 1,224 fatal work injuries, the most of any industry sector, an increase of 8 percent over the number reported in 2003. The increase was led by a jump in fatalities among specialty trade contractors from 629 in 2003 to 752 in 2004.
  • Twenty-seven states reported higher numbers of fatalities in 2004 than in 2003.
    Of those States reporting 25 or more fatal work injuries in 2004, six States reported increases of at least 20 percent (Alaska, Connecticut, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, and New Mexico), while two States reported declines of 20 percent (Arkansas and Oregon).
In addition, electorcutions were up. Highway incidents were up slightly, although nonhighway incidents ( on farms or industrial premises dropped). But more workers died after being struct by vehicles or mobile equipment last year than in 2003.

Finally, just to put this in a bit of perspective: