For the first time, the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has counted how many fatalities occurred among contract workers. In a report issued in late April, BLS calculated that there were 542 deaths of contract workers during 2011, or nearly 12% of the total 4,693 fatal work injuries reported.

For its report, BLS defined a contractor as a worker employed by a company or self-employed but working at the request of another company or agency that exercises overall responsibility for the operations at the site where the worker was killed. For example, the definition would cover a self-employed electrician working at a restaurant or the employee of a security company assigned to work in a bar.

Other BLS findings:

  • Nearly 1 in 4 of the fatal work injuries involving contractors occurred when a government entity had contracted the worker, including 50 fatal injuries in state government, 47 in local government, and 11 in federal government.
  • Private construction contractors accounted for 21% of contractor fatalities. Another 11% of fatal work injuries occurred in the private financial activities industries, led by 51 fatal injuries among contractors working in real estate.
  • Falls to lower level accounted for the highest number of fatal work injuries involving contractors (170, or 31%). Another 72 incidents resulted from pedestrian vehicular incidents, including 44 incidents involving contractors who were struck by a vehicle in a work zone.
  • Hispanic or Latino contractors accounted for 28% of the fatal work injuries among contractors, well above their 16% share of the overall fatal work injury total in 2011.
  • Texas (56), Florida (51), and California (42) recorded the highest number of fatal occupational injuries among contractors.

Full report