Last year, 601 workers were killed on the job in California, an 8.5 percent decline from the 657 fatalities recorded in 1993. 1994's workplace fatalities occurred largely in the private sector, which accounted for 532 fatalities, or 88.5 percent. The remaining 69 fatalities occurred in the public sector.
The most significant news in the 1994 figures is the decrease in fatalities from assaults and violent acts. In 1993, a series of shocking and attention-grabbing events focused attention on the problem of workplace security. The 1993 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries reflected the phenomenon of workplace violence, as assaults and violent acts represented the leading cause of workplace fatalities in California for the first time. In 1994, assaults and violent acts accounted for the second leading cause.
"The decline in workplace fatalities is undeniable good news," Aubry said. "But we can be even more encouraged by the decline in workplace homicides. There are several possible reasons for the decline, such as increased attention leading employers to take threats seriously and enhanced security precautions. While we sometimes can be tempted to allow sensational events to lead us to believe that violent incidents are still growing, the real data prove the opposite trend."
The Division of Labor Statistics and Research's annual Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries is compiled in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics. It identifies incidents involving workplace fatalities from several sources, including Cal/OSHA and federal OSHA reports, law enforcement information, workers' compensation claims, coroner's reports, and even news reports. The census identifies, verifies, and profiles workplace fatalities involving all employees in the private sector, self-employed individuals, and civilian and military government employees.
Transportation accidents represented the leading cause of workplace fatalities in 1994. Of the 601 fatalities recorded, 222 deaths, or 36.9 percent, were related to transportation accidents, which include highway accidents, pedestrians struck by vehicles or equipment, and accidents involving aircraft, boats, or railways.
Assaults and violent acts accounted for the second-leading cause of workplace fatalities, accounting for 185, or 30.8 percent, of workplace fatalities. In 1993, assaults and violent acts in the workplace killed 245 workers, or 37.3 percent of workers killed on the job. The 185 deaths from assaults and violent acts in California consisted of 156 homicides, 25 incidents of fatal self-inflicted injury, and four assaults by animals.
Other causes of workplace fatalities included falls, 71 or 11.8 percent; contact with objects and equipment (struck by falling object, caught in equipment or collapsing structure or materials), 62 or 10.3 percent; exposure to harmful substances or environments (electrocution, noxious substances, drowning), 44 or 7.3 percent; and fires and explosions, 14 or 2.3 percent. Three other fatalities were identified and included in the total, but sufficient information is not yet available to classify the precise circumstances.
Among the private industry sector, more fatalities occurred in the services industry, which experienced 103 fatalities, or 17.1 percent of the total. The totals by other industry groups were retail trade, 96 or 16 percent; transportation and public utilities, 90 or 15 percent; agriculture, forestry, and fishing, 75 or 12.5 percent; construction, 68 or 11.3 percent; manufacturing, 56 or 9.3 percent; wholesale trade, 20 or 3.3 percent; finance, insurance, and real estate, 11 or 1.8 percent; and mining, 8 or 1.3 percent.
Among occupational groups, operators, fabricators, and laborers had the greatest number of fatalities, with 152, or 25.3 percent. Technical, sales, and administrative support, followed with 112 or 18.6 percent. Other occupational groups were precision production, craft, and repair, 87 fatalities or 14.5 percent; managerial and professional specialty occupations, 75 or 12.5 percent; farming, forestry, and fishing occupations, 76 or 12.6 percent; service occupations, 71 or 11.8 percent; and military occupations, 23 or 3.8 percent.
Copies of the 1994 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (link no longer valid) are available by writing to the Division of Labor Statistics and Research, P.O. Box 420603, San Francisco, California 94142-0603 or by calling (415) 703-3451.