Introduction

The total number of deaths in 2000, the most recent year for which fatality data is available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), was the lowest annual total number of workplace fatalities ever recorded (BLS, 2002). Prior to 2000, a peak number of 6,632 workers were killed in 1994 in the United States due to accidental injuries was reported to the CFOI (BLS, 1999; BLS, 2002).

In terms of industries, the mining industry experiences the greatest fatality rates with approximately 30 deaths per 100,000 workers followed by agriculture, forestry and fishing with approximately 21 deaths per 100,000 workers, and the construction industry with approximately 13 deaths per 100,000 workers (BLS, 2002). With regards to the types of events that result in fatalities in the workplace, the top three in terms of the number of workers killed each year are transportation accidents, workplace homicides, and falls. Transportation accidents alone account for approximately 23 percent of all workplace deaths.

While it is widely known that certain industries experience a greater number of occupational fatalities and still others experience greater fatality rates than others, the purpose of this study was to describe the trends in the fatality rates experienced by the United States workplace. These trends were based upon the events that resulted in the fatality over a nine-year period. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries were used to describe these trends in occupational fatalities in the United States. The CFOI is an official, systematic, verifiable count of fatal occupational injuries that occur during the year. The National Safety Council and other organizations have adopted it as the authoritative source for a count of fatal work injuries in the United States. At this time, the most current data available for analysis covers 1992 to 2000 and includes all workers 16 years old and older.

The annual data was plotted for all fatalities by the leading events that resulted in an occupational fatality. The events were ranked in terms of the overall number of workers killed due to that event during the nine-year analysis period. To determine if the annual fatality rates represented significant differences from the nine-year average, upper and lower control limits were determined using three standard deviations above and below the average as a cut off level. The procedures used to calculate the control limits are described by Janicak (2003).

From 1992 to 2000, occupational fatalities in the United States were found to decrease in numbers for the most part except for an increase in 1994 and 1995. Overall, the number of fatalities for all events has decreased approximately 12 percent from a high of 6,550 in 1994 to their lowest levels of 5,770 in 2000. The frequency of occupational fatalities by year is displayed in Figure 1. The data indicates a general downward trend in the frequency of fatal occupational injuries experienced each year during this period.

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