IR #99-10
Monday, August 9, 1999

Dean Fryer
(415) 703-5050

Fatal occupational injuries decline during 1998

SAN FRANCISCO --Preliminary reports show fewer workers died on the job in California during 1998 than in 1997.

Six-hundred-and-seventeen workers were killed on the job last year compared to 652 in 1997 reports the Department of Industrial Relations' Division of Labor Statistics and Research (DLSR) in a preliminary study compiled in cooperation with the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"While we aim toward eliminating all workplace fatalities, the decrease in deaths during 1998 is welcome news to us," said Steve Smith, the director of the Department of Industrial Relations. "Now that we are expanding our Cal/OSHA enforcement staff for the first time in years, we hope to further reduce the number of workplace fatalities."

The CFOI program identifies incidents involving workplace fatalities from several sources, including Cal/OSHA and federal OSHA reports, law enforcement data, workers' compensation claims, coroners' reports and news reports. The census identifies, verifies and profiles workplaces involving all employees in the private sector, self-employed individuals and civilian and military government workers.

Transportation accidents continue to represent the leading cause of workplace deaths in 1998, with 249 fatalities or 40 percent of the total. Almost half of the transportation accidents involved highway traffic incidents, with collisions between vehicles the most common followed by workers struck by vehicles or mobile equipment.

In 1998, assaults and violent acts, the second leading cause of workplace fatalities, caused 147 deaths. This represents a major decrease since 1993 when assaults accounted for 245 occupational fatalities, the highest number of work-related deaths in California, and from 1997 when assaults claimed 174 lives in the state's workplaces.

Other causes of workplace deaths included falls, which killed 80 workers or 13 percent of the total; contact with objects and equipment, which killed 69 workers; exposure to harmful substances and environments, such as electrical current, wiring and transformers, which killed 57 workers and finally fires and explosions, resulting in the deaths of eight workers in 1998.

Fatal occupational injuries were overwhelmingly suffered by men with 92.4 percent of deaths occurring among male workers. The vast majority of deaths occurred during the prime working age group, from 25 to 54 years of age, according to the report.

As in previous years, the service sector accounted for the most deaths in private industry, with 106 deaths or 17.2 percent of the total. The totals by other industry groups were:

Construction with 94 deaths or 15.2 percent of the total
Transportation and public utilities with 81 deaths or 13.1 percent of the total
Retail trade with 77 deaths or 12.5 percent of the total
Agriculture, forestry and fishing with 72 deaths or 11.7 percent of the total
Manufacturing with 49 deaths or 7.9 percent of the total
Wholesale trade with 20 deaths or 3.2 percent of the total
Finance, insurance and real estate with 13 deaths or 2.1 percent of the total and
Mining with 6 deaths or 1 percent of the total.

Deaths among government workers accounted for 87 deaths or 14.1 percent of the total, with 44 federal government workers, including resident armed forces, making up the largest number of those 87 deaths. Eleven state government workers were victims of fatal workplace accidents and 32 local government workers died on the job during 1998, with police protection workers suffering the greatest number of fatalities.

Among occupational groups, operators, fabricators and laborers experienced the greatest number of fatalities with 168 or 27.2 percent of the total. Other groups suffering workplace fatalities during 1998 were:

Precision production, craft and repair workers accounted for 102 deaths or 16.5 percent of the total Technical, sales and administrative support reported 84 deaths or 13.6 percent of the total
Managerial and professional specialty occupations had 78 deaths or 12.6 percent of the total
Farming, forestry and fishing occupations had 77 deaths or 12.5 percent of the total
Service occupations with 65 deaths or 10.5 percent of the total and
Military occupations accounted for 29 deaths or 4.7 percent of the total.

For a complete view of DLSR's findings, go to

# # #