As a country, we might not be getting any richer, but we are getting safer -- and apparently a lot less hostile.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' annual report on workplace fatalities, 4,547 people died on the job last year. This preliminary number is slightly lower than the 4,551 fatal injuries recorded in 2009, and the lowest on record since the BLS began tracking this information in 1992.
Workplace homicides also fell to a record low last year, to 506, down 7 percent from 2009. Since peaking at 1,080 in 1994, the number of workplace homicides has been steadily declining.
Though the rate of fatal injury across all occupations in 2010 was 3.5 per 100,000 workers, in line with 2009, a number of jobs proved to be especially dangerous last year. The following 10 jobs all had fatal injury rates at least five times greater than average.
Occupations with the highest rate of fatal work injuries (deaths per 100,000 workers):
- Fishers and related fishing workers: 116
- Logging workers: 91.9
- Aircraft pilots and flight engineers: 70.6
- Farmers and ranchers: 41.4
- Mining machine operators: 38.7
- Roofers: 32.4
- Refuse and recyclable materials collectors: 29.8
- Driver/sales workers and truck drivers: 21.8
- Industrial machinery installation, repair and maintenance workers: 20.3
- Police and sheriff's officers: 18.0
Given the fact that transportation accidents, assaults and violent attacks, and contact with objects and equipment, are consistently the most common causes of fatal workplace injuries each year, it's not hard to see what makes these occupations so dangerous.
Most of these jobs also fall within the larger industry sectors that historically record the highest total number of workplace fatalities each year, including construction; agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting; and transportation and warehousing.
Still, workplace fatalities aren't limited to industries that are obviously dangerous. The professional and business services industry, for example, which includes occupations such as legal services, marketing and human resources, had the fourth-highest number of workplace fatalities in 2010.
Total number of workplace fatalities, and percent of total workplace fatalities by industry sector:
- Construction: 780; 17.2 percent
- Transportation and warehousing: 657; 14.4 percent
- Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting: 600; 13.2 percent
- Professional and business services: 373; 8.2 percent
- Manufacturing: 324; 7.1 percent
- Retail trade: 302; 6.6 percent
- Public administration: 301; 6.6 percent
- Leisure and hospitality: 245; 5.4 percent
- Education and health services: 230; 5.1 percent
- Other services (repair and maintenance, personal and laundry services, religious organizations): 186; 4.1 percent).
Though the American workplace continues to get safer, even one workplace fatality is too many. If you feel like your workplace is unsafe, talk to your human resources department. By law, employers are required to provide you with a safe work environment. To find out more, visit Osha.gov.
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