IR #2004-11
Thursday, September 27, 2004

Dean Fryer
Susan Gard

California continues to cultivate a safer workforce
State Division of Labor Statistics and Research shows fatalities declining as employment numbers grow

SAN FRANCISCO – Data released by the state Division of Labor Statistics and Research shows the number of workplace fatalities continued to decline in California in 2003 while employment numbers rose. Last year, 456 of California's 16,283,000 workers were fatally injured on the job, down from 478 of California's 16,215,000 workers killed in 2002.

"Our aggressive approach to health and safety on the job in California is paying off," said John Rea, acting director of the Department of Industrial Relations, the state agency that oversees California's fatality data collection and occupational safety and health programs. "While one life lost is one too many, 22 more workers made it home safely to their families last year, and over the past 10 years 187 lives have been saved."

While the number of national fatalities rose in 2003, the number of workplace fatalities in California has declined steadily since 1997. Last year marked the second year in which fatalities have fallen below 500.

"Unlike some other states, California runs its own occupational safety and health program," said Rea. "Cal/OSHA specifically targets the state's problem industries with intensive enforcement and consultative assistance that help employers provide safer and healthier workplaces."

Among the top causes of fatalities in 2003 were:

Of the workers killed on the job last year, 92 percent were men. Of the total fatal injuries, 52 percent were to white, non-Hispanic workers, while Hispanic workers accounted for 35 percent of fatal injuries.

Truck drivers, construction laborers, farm workers, police officers and grounds maintenance workers died on the job most frequently.

The national census of fatal workplace injuries and illnesses identifies, verifies and profiles workplaces of all employees in the private sector, as well as individuals who are self-employed, civilian and military government workers. Census sources include Cal/OSHA and federal OSHA reports, law enforcement data, workers' compensation claims, coroners' reports and news reports.

In 2002 the standard classification system (SIC) for identifying worker occupations was used, but in 2003 the North American industry classification system (NAICS) was used, precluding an industry by industry comparison. At the aggregate level, there was a decline in fatality rates from 476 in 2002 to 456 in 2003. In the private sector, the decrease went from 415 to 409.

The complete DLSR report will be posted on the Internet at