In a culture that is filled with cubicle jobs that we’re quick to label boring, we can easily forget that some jobs are dangerous. Commuting through rush-hour traffic in a big city can feel like a life-or-death adventure every morning, but for many workers that risk disappears once they exit the six-lane highway and pull into a parking lot.
For other workers, however, physical risks are part of the job. Whether you’re a police officer on patrol or a construction worker building a skyscraper, danger is a daily concern.
The new workplace injury statistics released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics are a mix of good and bad news. The good news: Fatal workplace injuries were down 28 percent in 2009 compared with 2008. The bad news: 4,340 workers still died as a result of on-the-job injuries. So we’re happy to see a reduction in fatal injuries, but don’t we want that number down to zero?
Which sectors had the biggest improvements?
If you look only at the raw numbers, here are the occupations with the most fatal injuries last year:
- Transportation and material moving (1,376)
- Construction and extraction (988)
- Management (514)
- Installation, maintenance and repair (317)
- Sales and related (269)
- Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance (248)
- Protective service (243)
- Farming, fishing and forestry (229)
The change in percentage of fatal workplace injuries by industry reorders the list a bit:
- Transportation and material moving (28 percent decrease)
- Protective service (21 percent decrease)
- Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (18 percent decrease)
- Construction and extraction (16 percent decrease)
- Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance (6 percent increase)
- Resident military personnel (21 percent increase)
What does this tell us?
Although drawing conclusions from preliminary numbers is tricky, you can make some general observations.
As the BLS notes, the construction industry has experienced significant setbacks since the recession began in 2007. Therefore, a reduction in fatalities could be linked to the reduction in construction jobs. Again, a mix of good and bad news.
Fewer deaths of law enforcement officers and firefighters helped with the decrease in fatal injuries for protective services. And while many cities have struggled with budget issues to compensate and retain law enforcement officers, they have not laid off workers on the same scale that construction has. Therefore, the decrease in fatalities seems to be a completely positive change that doesn’t correlate to fewer employed police officers and firefighters.
To read the full report from the BLS, visit its website here.