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May 08, 2013
Transportation accidents, workplace violence top causes of fatal injuries; Is your industry at risk?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, just five causes were responsible for nearly 97 percent of all fatal occupational injuries in 2011. What were they? Read on to learn the most common reasons for fatal injury—and find out whether your industry is at risk.

Transportation incidents

Transportation incidents remain the leading cause of occupational fatalities. With 1,937 U.S. workers dying from transportation incidents in 2011, this single cause is responsible for 41 percent of all work-related fatalities. This category includes highway and nonhighway incidents (for example, incidents that occur off-road or on private roads); air, water, and rail fatalities; and workers struck by vehicles.

Are your workers at risk? All employees who travel while they’re on the clock are at risk, but those who work in certain industries are at much higher risk, including in:

  • Trade, transportation, and utilities. Thirty-eight percent of transportation-related deaths occurred to workers in trade, transportation, and utilities. Most of the deaths—57 percent of all transportation fatalities—were due to roadway incidents, including collisions with other vehicles. Motor carriers and other workers who regularly drive as part of their jobs are at risk for these incidents.
  • Government. Two hundred twelve government workers died in transportation incidents in 2011, with the bulk of fatalities occurring among public administration workers and national security workers.
  • Natural resources and mining. Eighteen percent of workers who died in transportation incidents worked in this sector; nearly 40 percent of these deaths occurred in crop production.
  • Construction. Construction workers accounted for 10 percent of transportation fatalities, mostly in specialty trades and heavy construction.

Workplace violence

Violence at work killed 791 U.S. workers, making it the second leading cause of occupational deaths, responsible for approximately 17 percent of fatalities. This category includes workers who are killed by other people, work-related suicides, and fatal animal assaults.

Are your workers at risk? Employees who work with cash or drugs, with violent or unstable individuals, or in isolation tend to be at the highest risk of violent death. At-risk categories include:

  • Government. Nineteen percent of workers who died violently worked in government, most of them in local government.
  • Retail trade. Seventeen percent of workers who died violently worked in retail.

Identifying which of the top 5 hazards apply to your business and focusing your safety efforts on those areas should substantially reduce the risk of injuries and fatalities in your workplace.

Contact with objects and equipment

In 2011, 710 worker deaths—about 15 percent of all workplace fatalities—occurred when workers came into contact with a physical hazard. This broad category includes workers caught in or crushed by equipment, struck by falling or flying objects, and crushed by collapsing materials.

Are your workers at risk? These injuries occur when:

  • Workers place some part of their bodies into a zone of danger and are caught, crushed, and killed;
  • A vehicle or piece of equipment moves when the worker doesn't expect it to; and
  • Workers are caught in shifting materials, like the soil in a trench or the grain in a silo.

These types of hazards occur most commonly in:

  • Service-providing industries. Thirty-eight percent of fatalities in this category were to workers in service-providing industries. The largest number occurred in the trade, transportation, and utilities sub-sector.
  • Natural resources and mining. Two hundred workers in this sector died from these hazards; 154 of them worked in agriculture, fishing, forestry, or hunting.
  • Construction. One hundred twenty-two workers in this industry died of physical contact with a hazard.

Slips, trips, and falls

Slip, trip, and fall incidents caused 681 worker deaths in 2011, accounting for 14.5 percent of total fatalities. This is the fourth leading cause of workplace deaths.

Are your workers at risk? The highest risk groups, naturally, are those who work at height, but falls on the same level also kill some workers each year. The categories with highest risk include:

  • Construction. With 262 deaths, construction workers accounted for almost 40 percent of fall-related deaths.
  • Service-providing industries. This sector accounted for 28 percent of worker deaths from falls. Landscaping was a particularly hazardous occupation, with 60 deaths, but these injuries can happen in any type of workplace, from healthcare settings to retail operations to office environments.

Exposure to harmful substances or environments

Hazards in this category caused 419 deaths in 2011. This figure includes deaths from electrocution, breathing toxic or oxygen-deficient air, and heat illness.

Are your workers at risk? Workers who may come into contact with electricity, hazardous atmospheric conditions, or high-heat conditions are found in most workplaces, but they are most commonly found in service-providing industries. Forty-two percent of the deaths in this category occurred in service-providing industries.

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