The Department of Labor’s BLS National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries for 2006 showed that highway incidents were still the primary cause of on-the-job deaths, accounting for almost one out of four fatal work injuries. Although they remained the most frequent type of work-related fatality, the number of highway incidents fell 8% in 2006, the lowest level since 1993.
Falls were the second leading cause of workplace death. The number of on-the-job falls increased 5% in 2006, with 809 employees dying in this manner. This was the third highest total since the census began in 1992. Fatal falls from roofs rose from 160 fatalities in 2005 to 184 in 2006, an increase of 15%.
Being struck by objects ranked third, with 583 fatalities. The number of employees who were fatally injured from being struck by objects not only represented a 4% decline from 2005, but also marked a reversal in the upward trend of the previous three years.
On-the-job homicides ranked fourth, claiming the lives of 516 workers. More than 80% of those workers were victims of a shooting. However, the number of workplace homicides in 2006 declined over 50% from the high reported in 1994.
Deaths from fires and explosions increased from 159 in 2005 to 201 in 2006, representing a 26% increase. Fatalities caused by exposure to harmful substances or environments were also higher in 2006. The sub-category within this type of fatality that showed the largest increase was exposure to caustic, noxious, or allergenic substances. The death toll from this cause rose from 136 in 2005 to 153 in 2006, or 12%.
The data also revealed some other key findings:
- Coal mining industry fatalities more than doubled in 2006, due to the Sago Mine disaster and other multiple-fatality coal mining incidents.
- Fatalities among workers under 25 years of age fell 9%, and the rate of fatal injury among these workers was down significantly.
- Fatalities among self-employed workers declined 11% and reached a series low in 2006.
- Aircraft-related fatalities were up 44%, led by a number of multiple-fatality events including the August 2006 Comair crash.
Twenty-seven states reported a higher number of fatalities in 2006, while 23 states and Washington, D.C. reported lower totals. Texas had the highest number of worker fatalities with 486, followed by California with 448 and Florida with 355. The 12 states that showed a 20% or more increase in fatalities were Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia.