Decrease due largely to decline in employment

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says a preliminary total of 4,340 fatal work injuries were recorded in the U.S. in 2009, the smallest annual total since the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries program was first conducted in 1992. Based on the preliminary count, the rate of fatal work injury for U.S. workers in 2009 was 3.3 per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, down from a final rate of 3.7 in 2008.

The BLS report suggests that economic factors played a major role in the fatal work injury decrease in 2009. Total hours worked fell by 6% in 2009, and some industries that have historically accounted for a significant share of fatal work injuries, such as construction, experienced even larger declines in employment or hours worked.

Some key findings:

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%, while fatal injuries among self-employed workers were down 3%.

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

Fatalities among non-Hispanic black or African-American workers were down 24%. 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%, 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, were down 21% from 2008.

See the full report for more information.