Solis Not Satisfied with 3.6 Fatality Rate

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’(BLS) reports that there were 5,071 fatal work injuries in the United States in 2008, down from  5,657  in 2007. Based on these preliminary counts, the rate of fatal injury for U.S. workers in 2008 was 3.6 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, down from 4.0 in 2007.  However, according to BLS, delays in processing by states may cause an increase in the updated 2008 counts scheduled for release in April 2010.

In June 2009, BLS started basing fatality rates on hours worked as opposed to employment since this is considered to be more accurate in measuring the risk of dying from an injury on the job. Economic factors likely played a role in the fatality decrease. Average hours worked at the national level fell by one percent in 2008, and some industries that have historically accounted for a significant share of worker
fatalities, such as construction, experienced larger declines in employment or hours worked.

Key findings from BLS are:

  • Fatal work injuries in the private construction sector declined by 20 percent.
  • Fatal workplace falls, which had risen to a series high in 2007, also declined by 20 percent in 2008.
  • Workplace suicides were up 28 percent to a series high of 251 cases in 2008, but workplace homicides declined 18 percent in 2008.
  • The number and rate of fatal work injuries among 16 to 17 year-old workers were higher in 2008.
  • Fatal occupational injuries involving Hispanic or Latino workers in 2008 were 17 percent lower than in 2007.
  • Fatalities among non-Hispanic Black or African American workers were down 16 percent.
  • The number of fatal workplace injuries in farming, fishing, and forestry occupations rose 6 percent in 2008 after declining in 2007.
  • Transportation incidents, which accounted for approximately two-fifths of all the workplace fatalities in 2008, fell 13 percent from the previous series low of 2,351 cases reported in 2007.

In response to the report, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said: “While the decrease in the number of fatal work injuries represents change in the right direction, it does not lessen the need for strong enforcement to ensure that safety is a top priority in every workplace. In fact, today’s report prompts us to step up our vigilance, particularly as the economy regains momentum. Working with both employers and employees, the Department of Labor will not be satisfied until there are no workplace deaths due to failure to comply with safety rules.”

More information may be found on the BLS website.

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