The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has just released a slew of intriguing data pertaining to 2008 work-related deaths. Overall, the news is good, with a full 10 percent decrease in workplace fatalities when compared to 2007 figures. Furthermore, 2008 occupational deaths (5,071 in total) register as the smallest annual preliminary total for any year since the BLS began recording such data in 1992.
Why did the U.S. see such a dramatic drop in workplace fatalities? At first glance, one might hypothesize that the high rate of unemployment witnessed in 2008 may have played a part. After all, if people are not working as much, they are also not being placed in as many hazardous work situations.
However, when comparing fatality rate of full-time workers, the BLS also reports a significant drop – 3.6 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2008 as opposed to 4.0 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2007.
Still, industries in which worker safety is generally an issue (construction, mining, etc.) have experienced larger drops in hours of employment than other sectors. Such a shift may have diminished the number of potentially dangerous work situations over all.
Additionally, the downturn in the economy has also resulted in smaller staffs at government agencies. This means that short-staffed agencies such as the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries may be backlogged with processing of documents related to workplace statistics. Again, the 2008 figures are only preliminary findings, and may be updated in the future.
Regardless of cause, the report is good news for the U.S. economy as a whole. Additional stats gleaned from the report include:
- Workplace suicides rose 28 percent (251 total cases)
- Workplace homicides declined 18 percent
- Industries in which fatal injuries rose for 2008 include farming, fishing and forestry
- 16 percent of all 2008 workplace fatalities involved a foreign-born employee
- Men accounted for 93 percent of all workplace-related deaths
- Fatal workplace falls across all industries diminished by 20 percent
- Injuries among the private construction sector dropped by 20 percent