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Deaths in industry, 1985: BLS survey findings.

Deaths in industry, 1985: BLS survey findings

Occupational injuries and illnesses resulted in 3,750 work-related deaths in private sector establishments with 11 employees or more in 1985. These estimates on occupational fatalities were taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Annual Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnessess. Within the scope of the survey, work-related fatalities are relatively rare events. In 1985, the fatality rate was 6.2 per 100,000 full-time workers. (See table 1.) About 330 of the 3,750 reported deaths were attributable to a job-related illness.1

Work-related deaths are classified by industry division and by broad causal categories. The fatality rate per 100,000 full-time workers was highest in the mining industry; however, the largest number of deaths occurred in construction. (See table 2.) Both the lowest rate and smallest number of fatalities were reported in finance, insurance, and real estate. Two-thirds of all fatalities occurred in construction, manufacturing, and transportation and public utilities industries. The leading cause of death was attributed to car and truck accidents, accounting for nearly one-third. (See table 3.) Cases involving highway vehicles accounted for at least 1 of every 5 fatalities in 7 of the 8 industry divisions.

Employers participating in the survey provided various data, including the number of fatalities and a brief description of the object or event which caused the fatality. Estimates based on these results present a wide range of analytical problems. Thus, caution should be used in drawing conclusions about year-to-year changes. In order to increase the reliability of data relating to cause of death by industry, the distributions are based on the total number of reported cases for the 1984 and 1985 surveys combined. (See tables 3 and 4.)

Analysis by industry

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing. Highway vehicles accounted for 1 of 4 deaths. (See table 3.) Industrial vehicles or equipment, heart attacks, and aircraft crashes each accounted for more than 1 of 10 fatalities.

Mining-oil and gas extraction only. Industrial vehicles or equipment and highway vehicles each accounted for 1 of every 5 deaths. Objects, other than vehicles or equipment, were another major source.

Construction. Highway accidents and electrocutions were each responsible for 17 percent of the fatalities. Industrial vehicles or equipment and falls were each a factor in 16 percent of the deaths.

Manufacturing. Twenty percent of the deaths involved highway vehicles. Industrial vehicles or equipment were another leading cause.

Transportation and public utilities. Almost one-half were attributable to highway vehicles. All other causes were each involved in less than 10 percent of the cases.

Wholesale and retail trade. Highway accidents accounted for 35 percent of the deaths. Assaults accounted for 15 percent of the fatalities; accidents involving industrial vehicles or equipment were cited in 12 percent of the deaths; and heart attacks, 10 percent.

Finance, insurance, and real estate. Highway vehicles caused the majority of the fatalities, accounting for 29 percent. Falls and heart attacks accounted for another large portion.

Services. Highway vehicles were the major cause of death, 28 percent, followed by electrocutions, 17 percent, and heart attacks, 16 percent.

Analysis by cause

The largest share of occupational fatalities were attributable to highway accidents, 29 percent. Industrial vehicles or equipment, heart attacks, falls, and electrocutions, combined, accounted for 2 of every 5 fatalities. The remainder were related to entrapments, aircraft crashes, explosions, assaults, gas inhalation, fires, accidents involving plant machinery operations and objects other than vehicles or equipment, and other causes.

Highway vehicles were the leading cause of death in all but 1 of the 8 industry divisions. They were responsible for the largest percentage of fatalities in all of the industries except mining. About 36 percent of these accidents occurred in transportation and public utilities. (See table 4.)

Industrial vehicles or equipment, such as tractors and high-lift trucks, were involved in nearly 12 percent of all fatalities. Workers in the construction and manufacturing industries accounted for 31 and 29 percent of the cases.

Falls were responsible for nearly 9 percent of all fatalities. About 2 of 5 of these fatalities involved construction workers and 1 of 5 involved those in manufacturing.

Electrocutions were the cause of about 9 percent of all fatalities. Electrocutions most frequently occurred in construction, services, and manufacturing industries.

Deaths resulting from heart attack were most common in manufacturing, 22 percent, followed by services, 20 percent, and construction, 18 percent.

With the exception of 3 of the remaining 9 causal categories, the majority of cases occurred in either construction or manufacturing. However, the majority of cases involving aircraft crashes and gas inhalation occurred in transportation and public utilities, while the majority of assaults occurred in wholesale and retail trade.

The "all other' category, accounting for 4 percent of total fatalities, includes deaths involving contact with carcinogenic or toxic substances, drowning, train accidents, and various occupational illnesses.

Reliability of estimates

The 1985 survey was comprised of a random sample of 280,000 units. The relative standard errors, a measure of sampling error in the estimates, are presented in the following tabulation (in percent) and are to be used only in conjunction with the numbers of fatalities or the incidence rate for 1985. (See tables 1 and 2.) The relative standard error of 7 percent for the private sector means that the chances are 2 out of 3 that a complete census would have produced a number between 3,490 and 4,010.

Background of the survey

The 1985 Annual Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses is authorized by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. The survey includes all employers except the self-employed, farmers with fewer than 11 employees, private households, Federal, State, and local government agencies, employers with fewer than 11 employees in low-risk industries, and those establishments in which working conditions are covered by other Federal safety and health laws.

Since 1977, the published data on occupational fatalities reflect only those deaths in establishments with 11 employees or more. The 1984 report on the survey of occupational fatalities, entitled "Work-related deaths in 1984: BLS survey findings,' was published in the Monthly Labor Review, May 1986, pp. 42-44.

1 Chronic and long-term latent illnesses, which are often difficult to recognize or relate to the workplace, are included in the estimate but may be understated.

Table: 1. Number and rate of occupational fatalities for employers with 11 employees or more, private sector, 1974-85

Table: 2. Number and rate of occupational fatalities for employers with 11 employees or more, by industry division, 1984 and 1985

Table: 3. Distribution of occupational fatalities by cause for employers with 11 employees or more, private sector, 1984-1985(1)

Table: 4. Distribution of occupational fatalities by industry division for employers with 11 employees or more, private sector, 1984-1985(1)

COPYRIGHT 1987 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Article Details
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Author:Cotter, Diane M.; Macon, Janet A.
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Apr 1, 1987
Previous Article:Work experience of the labor force during 1985.
Next Article:Productivity gains continued in many industries during 1985.

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