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Department of Labor Releases (OSHA) Fatality Data for 2009

There is some good news indeed… at least on a preliminary reporting basis. The Department of Labor released the 2009 workplace fatality data yesterday. According to the press release, the number of workplace fatalities declined from 5,214 in 2008 to 4,340 in 2009. The data will be revised (virtually always upward) in the coming months. For now, this amounts to a drop of 874 fatalities, or 16.7%, from the prior year. Good news indeed.

The report went on to say that the weakened economy was a significant contributor to the decline. The Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, stated that “While a decrease in the number of fatal work injuries is encouraging, we cannot – and will not – relent from our continued strong enforcement of workplace safety laws.” Therefore, employers can expect this Administration to continue its policy of aggressive enforcement with a softened tone on compliance assistance.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ website, the rate of workplace fatalities dropped from 3.7 in 2008 to a new all-time low rate of 3.3 fatalities per 100,000 workers. This 10.8% drop in the rate is also significant with multiple factors claimed in the report.

Key preliminary findings of the 2009 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries: (quoted from report on

– Workplace homicides declined 1 percent in 2009, in contrast to an overall decline of 17 percent for all fatal work injuries. The homicide total for 2009 includes the 13 victims of the November shooting at Fort Hood. Workplace suicides were down 10 percent in 2009 from the series high of 263 in 2008.

– Though wage and salary workers and self-employed workers experienced similar declines in total hours worked in 2009, fatal work injuries among wage and salary workers in 2009 declined by 20 percent while fatal injuries among self-employed workers were down 3 percent.

– The wholesale trade industry was one of the few major private industry sectors reporting higher numbers of fatal work injuries in 2009.

– Fatal work injuries in the private construction sector declined by 16 percent in 2009 following the decline of 19 percent in 2008.

– Fatalities among non-Hispanic black or African-American workers were down 24 percent. This worker group also experienced a slightly larger decline in total hours worked than non-Hispanic white or Hispanic workers.

– The number of fatal workplace injuries in building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations rose 6 percent, one of the few major occupation groups to record an increase in fatal work injuries in 2009.

– Transportation incidents, which accounted for nearly two-fifths of all the fatal work injuries in 2009, fell 21 percent from the 2,130 fatal work injuries reported in 2008.


Prometrix Consulting, with a staff of former OSHA officials, offers expert consulting and training services to help clients ensure compliance with complex workplace safety and health requirements.

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