Did the Economy Help Lower Workplace Fatalities?

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FatalitiesCall me morbid, call me crazy, but I’m a “glass half-full” type of gal. I’ll take good news where I can find it — even if that means looking at workplace fatalities. Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its annual National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. There were 5,071 fatal injuries in the workplace in 2008, down from 5,657 in 2007.

They say that economic factors are likely to have played a role in the decrease. Industries that typically account for most workplace injuries and fatalities, like construction — which declined 20 percent — have experienced large declines in the number of hours worked and the number of employed persons, which ultimately lead to less injury.

Another finding that might be related to the economy? Workplace suicides. Workplace suicides rose from 196 cases in 2007 to 251 cases in 2008, an increase of 28 percent and the highest number ever reported by the fatality census. Suicides among protective service occupations rose from 14 in 2007 to 25 in 2008.

Other key findings:

  • Fatal work injuries in the private construction sector in 2008 declined by 20 percent from the updated 2007 total, twice the all-worker decline of 10 percent.
  • Fatal workplace falls, which had risen to a series high in 2007, also declined by 20 percent in 2008.
  • Workplace suicides were up 28 percent to a series high of 251 cases in 2008, but workplace homicides declined 18 percent in 2008.
  • The number and rate of fatal work injuries among 16 to 17-year-old workers were higher in 2008.
  • Fatal occupational injuries involving Hispanic or Latino workers in 2008 were 17 percent lower than in 2007. Fatalities among non-Hispanic Black or African American workers were down 16 percent.
  • The number of fatal workplace injuries in farming, fishing and forestry occupations rose 6 percent in 2008 after declining in 2007.
  • Transportation incidents, which accounted for approximately two-fifths of all the workplace fatalities in 2008, fell 13 percent from the previous series low of 2,351 cases reported in 2007.

Want to see the most dangerous occupations, according to workplace fatalities? Check out this graph.

Click here to read the full report.

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