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Latino, Contractor Work Deaths Rise

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

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Deaths of Hispanic workers surged and construction fatalities remained stubbornly unchanged in a new report that otherwise bore good news for U.S. workplace safety.

The number of Hispanic and Latino workers killed on the job in 2013 increased by seven percent to a six-year high, despite an overall decline in fatal work injuries in the United States, according to preliminary data released by the Department of Labor. The number of contractor deaths also increased.

The numbers typically increase when final data become available.

©iStock / andymagic

Construction deaths topped the goods-producing sector in 2013. Specialty trade contractors accounted for 476 of the 796 deaths.

A preliminary total of 4,405 fatal work injuries was recorded in the United States in 2013, a six percent decline from 2012 and the lowest level recorded by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Census of Fatal Occupational
Injuries (CFOI) since the census began in 1992.

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 will be released in the spring of 2015. In 2012, the final figure was six percent higher than the preliminary figure.

Key Findings

The preliminary data showed:

  • 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 dropped substantially, from 19 in 2012 to a record low of five in 2013. But the toll for workers ages 25 to 34 was higher.
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.

Work-related suicides were 8 percent higher in 2013 than in 2012. but workplace homicides declined by 16 percent.

One hard-hit occupation was firefighters, who recorded 53 deaths in 2013, up from 18 in 2012. Officials attributed the increase to several major disasters, including Arizona wildfires that claimed the lives of 19 firefighters.

Industry Highlights

Construction remained the deadliest industry in the goods-producing sector in 2013. Deaths in the private construction sector remained about the same as in 2012, although that figure has declined by 36 percent since 2006.

Specialty trade contractors accounted for 476 of the 796 construction deaths; heavy and civil engineering construction, 162; and building construction, 145. Construction laborers remained the largest group of fatalities among trades, with numbers unchanged over 2012.

Deaths in the oil and gas extraction industries, however, 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.

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 totaled 133—five percent higher than in 2012 and about eight 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.

Contact with objects and equipment killed 717 workers in 2013. Fires and explosions claimed 148, a 21 percent increase from the prior year.

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.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has made Latino, Hispanic and immigrant worker safety a priority in recent years, noting disproportionately high death and injury rates among those groups. According to OSHA, the death rate among these workers has climbed by 35 percent in the same decade that has seen a 20 percent decline in overall fatalities.

The agency's Hispanic outreach efforts are available here.

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.


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; Government; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Labor; North America; Workers

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