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U.S. Sees Decline in Worker Deaths

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

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With the notable exception of Latino workers, fatal work injuries in the United States dipped slightly in 2013, according to new preliminary data released by the Department of Labor.

For Latino/Hispanic workers, however, workplace deaths increased by 7 percent to a six-year high.

A preliminary total of 4,405 fatal work injuries was recorded in the United States in 2013, down from the revised count of 4,628 fatal work injuries in 2012, according to results from the Census of Fatal Occupational
Injuries (CFOI) conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

©iStock / andymagic

Construction deaths accounted for the highest number of fatal work injuries of any goods-producing sector in 2013. Specialty trade contractors accounted for 476 of the 796 deaths.

The rate of fatal work injury for U.S. workers in 2013 was 3.2 per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, compared to a final rate of 3.4 per 100,000 in 2012.

Final data, which typically show an increase in cases, will be released in the spring of 2015. In 2012, the final figure was six percent higher than the preliminary figure.

Key Findings

Major findings from the preliminary data included:

  • Fatal work injuries in private industry in 2013 were 6 percent below the 2012 figure and the lowest total since the fatality census was first conducted in 1992.
  • The 797 Hispanic or Latino worker deaths in 2013 accounted for a seven percent increase over the final figure of 2012 and the highest total since 2008. Fatal work injuries were lower among all other major racial and ethnic groups.
  • Workers who were working as contractors at the time of their fatal injury accounted for 17 percent of all cases in 2013, an increase over 2012.
  • Fatal work injuries involving workers under 16 years of age were substantially lower, falling from 19 in 2012 to a record low of five in 2013.
  • Fatal work injuries among workers 25 to 34 years of age were higher.
  • Work-related suicides were 8 percent higher in 2013 than in 2012. but workplace homicides were 16 percent lower.

One occupation that fared dramatically worse than others in 2013 was firefighters, who recorded 53 deaths in 2013, up from 18 in 2012. Officials attributed the increase to several major disasters, including the Yarnell Hill wildfires in Arizona that claimed the lives of 19 firefighters.

Types of Fatal Events

Transportation incidents declined by 10 percent but still accounted for two in five worker deaths in 2013.

Truck accident
©iStock / gregdh

Transportation incidents declined but still accounted for two in five worker deaths in 2013. Most arose from roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicles.

Overwhelmingly, the deaths arose from roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicles.

Fatal work injuries from aircraft incidents in 2013 were five percent higher than in 2012, accounting for 133 fatalities or about 8 percent of the transportation total.

Overall, 753 workers lost their lives to violence and other injuries by persons or animals, including
397 homicides and 270 suicides.

Fatal falls, slips, or trips took the lives of 699 workers in 2013; 82 percent of those were falls to a lower level. One in four fatal falls occurred from a height of 10 feet or less.

A preliminary total of 717 fatal work injuries occurred as a result of contact with objects and equipment. Fires and explosions were 21 percent higher in 2013, claiming 148 lives.

Worker Characteristics

The spike in Latino or Hispanic fatalities was not seen in any other group. Deaths declined by six percent among non-Hispanic white workers, by 15 percent among African American workers, and by 22 percent by Asian workers.

There were 845 fatal work injuries involving foreign-born workers in 2013; 42 percent of those victims were born in Mexico.

Fatal injuries among self-employed workers were 16 percent lower in 2013 and reflected a record low for the Census, although that group still accounted for one in five of all fatal work injuries.

Industry Highlights

Construction remained the deadliest industry among goods producers in 2013. Deaths in the private construction sector remained about the same as in 2012, though overall construction fatalities are down 36 percent since 2006.

Latino construction worker
©iStock / DenGuy

Fatal injuries among Hispanic and Latino workers increased by seven percent from 2012 to 2013. Rates among all other demographic groups declined.

The 796 construction deaths, nevertheless, accounted for the highest number of fatal work injuries of any goods-producing sector in 2013. Specialty trade contractors accounted for 476 of the 796 deaths; building construction, 145; and heavy and civil engineering construction, 162.

Deaths in the private mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction sector declined 15 percent from 2012. Deaths in the oil and gas extraction industries were down more than 20 percent.

Among private-sector service industries, transportation and warehousing saw 687 work deaths in 2013, seven percent lower than in 2012. Rail and water transportation figures were little changed from 2012.

Fatal occupational injuries among government workers increased by five percent.

Occupation Trends

Fatal work injuries in construction and extraction occupations declined by six percent in 2013; deaths among construction trades workers dipped by five percent over 2012 and 42 percent from the level reported in 2006.

Construction laborers remained the largest group of fatalities among trades, with numbers unchanged over 2012.

Contract Workers

The index has also been tracking workers' contractor status since 2011. In 2013, contractors made up 17 percent of all fatalities, compared with 15 percent in 2012.

Falls to a lower level accounted for 31 percent of contractor deaths; other leading causes included struck-by incidents (18 percent), pedestrians struck by vehicles (11 percent), and exposure to electricity (seven percent).

Each of these four types of incidents claimed a greater share of contractors than they did for workers overall.

Geographical Data

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia reported higher numbers of fatal work injuries in 2013 than in 2012; 30 states reported lower numbers, and three states remained the same.

Although data for Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam were not included in the national totals for this release, results for these jurisdictions are available.

All Results

Complete data are available in the tables linked here.


Tagged categories: Construction; Contractors; Fall protection; Fatalities; Good Technical Practice; Government; Health and safety; Labor; Latin America; North America; Workers

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