Upward Revision in 2006 Fatality Number Puts Heat on OSHA

U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who chairs the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee, said the final court of 2006 fatal occupational injuries released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is a worrisome development. BLS said Thursday that the final count was revised to 5,840, or 137 more than BLS reported in its preliminary results last August. Not only did the final numbers contain 53 more cases of Latino workers' deaths, but also the revision added 89 deaths to California's total -- pushing it past Texas to be the state with the highest numbe of fatal work injuries in 2006.

The overall 2006 fatality rate was revised from 3.9 percent per 100,000 employed workers to 4.0 per 100,000.

"We must not forget that these are not just numbers -- we're talking about real people, and for every workplace death in this country, there is a family somewhere that is grieving," Miller said in a release posted on his committee's Web site. "The fact that things are going in the wrong direction is deeply disturbing. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Department of Labor need to do a better job of enforcing our nation’s health and safety laws. There is no substitute for strong enforcement of the law, especially if we want to protect those workers who perform the most dangerous jobs and those workers who are the most vulnerable to exploitation."

The number of workplace deaths involving foreign-born workers rose from 997 to 1,046 because of the revision, and fatalities involving Latino workers rose from 937 to 990, representing a rate of 5.0 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2006 versus a rate of 4.7 in 2005. Miller said his committee will hold a hearing next month on workplace injury, illness, and fatality numbers.

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