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Survey of fatal work related injuries released – October 19, 2010

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released it’s national census of fatal occupational injuries for 2009.

The preliminary total of work related deaths recorded in the United states in 2009 was 4,340. This number was down from the final count of 5,214 fatal work injuries in 2008. The good news is that the 2009 total was the smallest annual preliminary total since the census program was first conducted in 1992. The total translated into a rate of 3.3 fatal work injuries per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers. These totals and rates however are likely to increase when the final counts and rates will be available in April of 2011. Past years have suggested a increase of about 3% of the revised fatality totals.

It is suspected that the economic downturn had an effect on the totals, with total hours worked falling by about 6%, with some high injury areas like construction showing larger declines in hours worked.

With regard to the type of incident which resulted in the fatal work related injury, the census found the following:

Most types of transportation fatalities decreased in 2009 relative to 2008, including highway incidents(-27%); workers struck by vehicle or mobile equipment (-19%); aircraft incidents (-18%); and nonhighway incidents such as tractor overturns(-8%).

Fatal occupational injuries due to water vehicle incidents were higher.

Workplace homicides fell by 1% in 2009, while this is in contrast with the 17% decrease overall, the preliminary count represents a decline of about half from the high of 1,080 homicides reported in 1994.

While workplace suicides declined 10% from a series high of 263 cases in 2008, this 2009 preliminary count of suicides is the second highest annual total reported by the census.

Fatal falls declined 12% in 2009. Overall, fatal falls are down 27% from the series high of 847 fatal falls reported in 2007. But as noted above, since about half of all fatal falls occur in the construction industry, the downturn in construction activity and employment since 2007 may account for the lower number of fatal falls over the past couple of years.

Deaths involving contact with objects or equipment were down 22% in 2009 after increasing in 2008.

Fatal work injuries involving exposure to harmful chemicals, substances or environments (such as electrocutions) were down 11 percent.

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