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Work-related fatality numbers dropped in 2011

We frequently write about the working conditions that contribute to preventable employee fatalities. Thankfully, there is some optimistic news to report. In 2011, fewer employees experienced the kinds of catastrophic workplace injuries that ultimately lead to death than were suffered in the previous year. Though this may seem like a small victory, the statistic is hopefully the start of a positive trend toward greater safety in the workplace.

In total, 4,609 American employees perished due to work-related injuries during 2011. In 2010, the number was nearly 4,700. This change represents a drop in fatal work injuries of a tenth of a percentage point over the two-year span.

What is perhaps most significant, however, is that certain high-risk industries are becoming significantly safer while others are becoming much more dangerous. In particular, private sector construction fatalities dropped for the fifth year in a row, with a significant 7-percent drop in 2011. However, transportation accidents accounted for the greatest number of fatalities, highlighting the fact that safety issues plaguing the trucking industry are taking a very human toll.

Overall, the distribution of fatal work injury causes in 2011 breaks down as follows:

  • Explosions and fires: 3 percent
  • Toxic substance exposure: 9 percent
  • Trips, falls and slips: 15 percent
  • Equipment or object contact: 15 percent
  • Human or animal violence: 17 percent
  • Transportation accidents: 41 percent

The drop in fatal injuries among workers last year should be celebrated. However, far too many American workers continue to die on the job. Hopefully 2012 will become known as the year that employers, employees and regulators got truly serious about improving modern worker safety measures.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "Fewer Americans Died From Work-Related Injuries in 2011," Josh Mitchell, Sept. 20, 2012

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