CFOI Report Shows 666 Fatal Workplace Falls in 2011

BLS released its 2011 summary of the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries data on Sept. 20. Deaths in private construction declined for the fourth consecutive year.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its 2011 summary of the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries data on Sept. 20, reporting a preliminary total of 4,609 fatal work injuries for the year. That is below the final count of 4,690 in 2010, but BLS also noted final counts in the past three years have added an average of 166 deaths to the total -- so it's still possible 2011's worker death count will exceed the prior year's.

Many of the numbers and trends highlighted in the report are positive. Deaths in private construction declined for the fourth consecutive year. Deaths in the private mining industry, which includes oil and gas extraction, declined by 10 percent, and coal mining deaths were down sharply, with 17 recorded in 2011 after 43 deaths the year before.

However, fatalities involving Latino workers rose by 3 percent, to 729 in 2011 from 707 in the prior year. BLS reports this was the first increase in this category of workers since 2006, and also that 500 of the 729 deaths (69 percent) involved foreign-born workers.

The Labor Department released a statement from U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis about the BLS report: "Today's report shows a decline in the number of workplace fatalities. It's a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done. We will continue to collaborate with employers, workers, labor leaders, and safety and health professionals to ensure that every American who clocks in for a shift can make it home safe and sound at the end of the day," Solis said. "On average, 13 workers lose their lives each and every day, and that loss ripples throughout their communities. Children, parents, brothers, sisters, and neighbors all bear an enormous burden when a loved one dies on the job. It's clear that we must maintain our commitment to ensuring our workplaces are safer and healthier for every American. This is a challenge that must be undertaken not just by the government but by the entire country. We know how to prevent these fatalities, and all employers must take the steps necessary to keep their workers safe."

The fatal falls data in the report are noteworthy because these 666 deaths in 2011 accounted for 14 percent of all fatal work injuries. Also, there is some new information about the height of fatal falls -- in 2011, height was reported for 451 of the 541 fatal falls from a higher level. BLS reports 115, or one in four fatal falls from height, resulted from a fall of 10 feet or less. Roughly the same number, 118, resulted from a fall of more than 30 feet.

Fatalities in agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting were down 10 percent in 2011, to 154, after rising by 74 percent in 2010. BLS said the improvement was "led by a sharp drop in crop production fatalities. Manufacturing fatalities were also slightly lower."

Transportation and warehousing accounted for 733 fatal work injuries in 2011, up 11 percent from the final 2010 count of 661, according to the report.

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