Mixed results on latest occupational fatality rates
Nearly half the states — 23 — reported higher numbers of fatal work injuries while 25 and the District of Columbia reported lower numbers. Maryland and Nevada reported no change.
The numbers are the preliminary results from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries program conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The overall rate of fatal work injury for U.S. workers in 2011 was 3.5 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers compared to a final rate of 3.6 per 100,000 reported in 2010.
Despite the overall lower numbers, increased numbers of workplace fatalities were reported among several areas. For example, transportation and warehousing saw an 11 percent increase, the highest count since 2008. Truck transportation, the largest subsector in the industry, increased by 14 percent, led by a 16 percent increase in general freight trucking and a 12 percent increase in specialized freight trucking.
Transportation and material moving occupations reported a 5 percent increase in fatalities, the highest level since 2008. Driver/sales workers and truck drivers, the subgroup with the highest number of fatal work injuries within the transportation and material moving group, led the increase.
Fatal injuries in the professional and business services sector were up 16 percent, led by an increase in fatalities in landscape services, the report says. Fatalities among government workers increased by 2 percent, largely due to a 24 percent increase in police protection. The rate was lower among state and federal workers.
Fatalities in the construction sector declined 7 percent — the fifth consecutive year of lower fatality counts. However, “economic conditions may explain much of this decline,” the report says. Construction accounted for the second most fatal work injuries of any industry sector with transportation and warehousing having the most.
In terms of age groups, the rate of fatalities decreased for workers 55 and over and those under 18 years old. However, workers between the ages of 20 and 24 years old saw an 18 percent increase.
Violence and other injuries by persons or animals accounted for 780 fatalities, or about 17 percent of the total. Included are 458 homicides and 242 suicides. Shootings were the most frequent for homicides and suicides.
Of the 375 violent incidents affecting women, 21 percent were homicides and nearly two out of five of those involved relatives, especially spouses or domestic partners. Among male workers, relatives accounted for only about 2 percent of assailants while robbers were more than one-third.
Other statistics from the report include:
- Fatalities in the private mining industry decreased by 10 percent following a 74 percent increase in 2010. “The Upper Big Branch mining disaster in 2010 which killed 29 workers was a major factor in the high fatality counts in 2010,” according to the report.
- The fatality rate among non-Hispanic blacks or African-Americans and Hispanics increased while the rate among non-Hispanic whites declined about 3 percent. The increase among African-American workers followed three years of declines.
- Fatalities in the building and grounds cleaning and maintenance industry were up 14 percent, the highest level since 2006. The biggest increases within this occupational group were among landscaping and groundskeeping workers and among tree trimmers and pruners.