From an occupational safety and health perspective, we spend much time addressing various aspects of injuries and illness, dealing with the workers' compensation system, and trying to comply with a multitude of workplace rules and regulations while trying to balance production output, service, and economic and manufacturing needs. We have a great deal of data and information that helps us to focus on those issues. An area that we may not focus enough attention on is the most serious occupational injury - death in the workplace.
According to an estimate by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), there were up to 21,000 work-related deaths in 1912. In 1933 there were approximately 14,500 and in 1980 there were approximately 7,405 work related deaths. Between 1992 and 2002, work related deaths have averaged around 6,100 a year.
Although there is some good news when we look at occupational fatality statistics over the past 100 years - occupational fatalities have been decreasing - we still continue to experience too many workplace fatalities in this country. On average, in 2002, one worker died every 2 hours in the US. or 15 workers a day, 106 a week, or 460 each month.
Even though the number of fatalities is decreasing, the average of 6,100 deaths a year indicates that much work still needs to be done to prevent fatal injuries and eliminate occupational hazards related to those deaths.
There are several organizations that collect data on workplace fatalities including the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), NIOSH, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), the United States Coast Guard (USCG), the National Safety Council (NSC)*, the American Federation of Labor - Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), and many insurance companies.
NIOSH takes the element of fatality and injury data collection a step further than some of the other agencies or organizations. NIOSH has an injury prevention program called the Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program that specifically looks at the prevention of traumatic occupational injuries and injury events.
The NIOSH FACE Program1 is a research program designed to identify and study fatal occupational injuries. The goal of the FACE program is to prevent occupational fatalities across the nation by identifying and investigating hazardous work situations and then formulating and disseminating prevention strategies to those who can intervene in the workplace.
The FACE program currently has two components:
NIOSH In-house FACE began in 1982. Participating states (see Figure 1) voluntarily notify NIOSH of traumatic occupational fatalities resulting from specific causes of death that have included confined spaces, electrocutions, machine-related, falls from elevation, and logging. In-house FACE is currently targeting investigations of deaths associated with machinery, deaths of youths under 18 years of age, deaths of Hispanic workers, and street/highway construction work zone fatalities. NIOSH staff conducts investigations into these incidents and develops reports that highlight potential prevention measures.