IR #98-31
Wednesday, August 12, 1998

Rick Rice
Dean Fryer
(415) 972-8835

On-the-job Deaths Continue to Decline in 1997

SAN FRANCISCO -- Fewer California workers died while at their jobs in 1997, according to John C. Duncan, Director of the Department of Industrial Relations. A preliminary report from data collected for the 1997 National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in cooperation with the California Division of Labor Statistics and Research shows another decline in workplace fatalities in California. Figures for 1997 are the latest numbers available.

"In 1997, preliminary figures show that there were 636 deaths attributed to work-related accidents," said Mr. Duncan, "continuing the trend of reduced work-related deaths over the last several years."

The CFOI program 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 workplaces involving all employees in the private sector, self-employed individuals, and civilian and military government employees.

Transportation accidents continue to represent the leading cause of workplace deaths in 1997, with 232 fatal injuries or 36 percent of the total. This is down from 270 in 1996. Over half of the transportation accidents involved highway traffic incidents, with collisions between vehicles as the most common event.

In 1997, assaults and violent acts, the second leading cause of workplace fatalities, registered 168 deaths. This represents a big drop from the 245 cases reported in 1993, when assaults accounted for the highest number of work-related deaths in California.

Other causes of workplace fatalities included 77 workers, or 12.1 percent of the total, who were struck by various objects, caught in equipment or collapsing structures or materials. Additionally, there were 80 people, or 12.6 percent, who died from falls; 54 people, 8.5 percent, who perished from exposure to harmful substances or environments (electrocution, noxious substances, drowning). Fires and explosions accounted for 22 deaths, or 3.5 percent of work related fatalities.

Workplace traumatic deaths were incurred by men 91.4 percent of the time, well above their share of California's employment. Seven out of 10 of those who were fatally injured were in the prime working age group -- 25 to 54 years, according to the report.

Among the private industry sector, more fatalities occurred in the services industry, accounting for 110 fatalities, or 17.3 percent of the total. The totals by other industry groups were:

Among occupational groups, operators, fabricators, and laborers had the greatest number of fatalities, with 183 or 28.8 percent. Other groups include:

"This trend toward fewer workplace fatalities, as these statistics appear to show, would indicate that California employers and employees are continuing their commitment to increased safety and health," said Duncan.

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