Occupational Fatalities Trends in the United States

This presentation is a compilation of results from a series of studies that examined the causal factors for various types of occupational fatalities. Fatalities include deaths due to falls, electrocutions, fires, head injuries and carbon monoxide poisonings. The risk factors, situations that resulted in death and prevention strategies will be presented.

The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that each fatal work injury, in monetary terms, costs approximately $790,000.1 This figure includes lost wages, medical insurance, and administrative and indirect costs such as production downtime. Furthermore, based on data from the Social Security Administration published by NSC for 1993, a total of $42.9 billion was paid for all workers' compensation claims (the latest year for which data were available).1

A typical workday

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that in a typical workday, some hazards workers face each day include:1

  • On average, 17 workers are killed each day, on the job, including:

  • 3 workers killed in highway vehicle incidents:

  • 2 to 3 workers are shot, at least 1 while tending a retail establishment, 1 worker is stabbed, strangled, or beaten to death;

  • 2 workers are killed from falls, typically from a ladder, roof or scaffold

Industries at Risk

In 1995, there were 126 million workers in the United States. According to the BLS Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, of these workers, 6,210 lost their lives.1 These victims worked in virtually all industrial settings: Factories, and in a host of service related jobs.

The construction industry accounted for over 1,000 of the total fatalities, more than any other industry. This represented about 17 percent of all work fatalities. The transportation and public utilities claimed almost as many lives - about 900 job-related fatalities or approximately 145 percent of the total.1

Highway traffic incidents and homicides led all other fatality events -accounting for 21 and 16 percent, respectively, of the total in 1995. Vehicle crashes were the main highway hazards with about half involving truckers, while robbery was the leading motive in job retried homicides, including taxicab drivers and cashiers.1

Falls accounted for 10 percent of fatal work injuries in 1995. Falling front, or through roofs, accounted for one fifth of the falls. This was the leading cause of a job-related fatal injury for carpenters, roofers, structural metal workers, and construction laborers.1

Workers being struck by various objects, such as trees and falling building materials, resulted in 9 percent of the fatal injuries in 1995. About 90 timber cutters lost their lives by being struck by falling trees.1

Electrocutions claimed 6 percent of the fatally injured workers, two-fifths of which resulted when workers or equipment came in contact with overhead power lines. More than half of the 117 electricians killed in 1995 involved electrocutions.1

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