February 2018 Connecticut Economic Digest

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Connecticut’s Work-Related Fatalities in 2016

By Erin C. Wilkins, Associate Research Analyst, DOL
Connecticut lost 28 lives to work injuries in 2016, decreasing from 2015’s count of 44. This is the smallest loss since 2008. It is also below Connecticut’s annual average of 39 work-related deaths Chart 1. At 1.6 deaths per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, Connecticut had the lowest state rate (Table 1), primarily due to lower employment in high-risk industries. However, it cannot be stressed enough that even one work-related death is one too many.

Chart 1. Connecticut Work-Related Fatalities, 1992-2016

Table 1. Fatal Occupational Injuries by State, 2016

Industry
The nation lost 5,190 lives to workplace injuries in 2016, the most since 2008. The fatal injury rate increased to 3.6 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers from 3.4 in 2015. The biggest loss was seen in Texas with 545 work-related fatalities, followed by California with 376 and Florida with 309 deaths. Rhode Island recorded the fewest, with 9. High rates were recorded in Wyoming (12.3) and Alaska (10.6). Wyoming’s highest rate was in the transportation and utilities industry, at 46.8. Alaska recorded a rate of 44.5 in manufacturing and 42.0 in transportation and utilities. Nationally, the construction industry recorded the biggest number of fatalities at 991, followed by transportation and warehousing with 825. The highest rate by industry was seen in truck transportation, with 25.6 deaths per 100,000 full time equivalent workers. With eight deaths, the construction industry had the highest number of deaths in Connecticut, accounting for 28.6 percent of 2016’s fatalities. Transportation and warehousing came in second with five, accounting for 17.9 percent of total deaths. With an overall rate of 1.6, Connecticut saw a rate of 7.4 in transportation and utilities, 6.4 in construction, and 2.6 in wholesale and retail trade. Rates for other industry sectors did not meet publishing criteria. The government sector did not record any deaths (
Table 2).

Table 2. CT Fatal Occupational Injuries by Industry

Worker Characteristics
All but one of Connecticut’s work-related deaths were men. This follows the national trend - Men were 93 percent of 2016’s work-related deaths. Twenty-two of the workers were wage and salary workers, and six were self-employed. Sixty-eight percent of deaths were Caucasian, four were Hispanic or Latino, four African-American, and one Asian. Nine workers were foreign born. Nationally, foreign-born workers made up about one fifth of total fatal injuries. Thirty seven percent of these workers were born in Mexico, followed by 19 percent from Asian countries.

Event
Historically, the United States loses the most workers to transportation incidents. The year 2016 saw 2,083 lives lost to transportation incidents – 40 percent of all work-related deaths. Violence and other injuries by persons or animals was the second most common event with 866 deaths (17 percent), followed by falls, slips and trips with 849 deaths (16 percent). Workplace homicides claimed 500 lives and suicides claimed 291. This is the highest homicide figure since 2010 and the most suicides recorded since the CFOI (Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries) program began in 1992. Fatal work injuries from falls, slips and trips continued an upward trend, increasing by 25 percent since 2011. Overdose fatalities have increased by at least 25 percent annually since 2012. With 10 deaths, transportation incidents claimed the most lives in Connecticut, accounting for 36 percent of the total. Over the past five years, Connecticut has lost 172 lives to workplace injuries (
Table 3). Thirty-two percent of them were to transportation events. Violence and other injuries by persons or animals claimed 25 percent, followed by falls, slips and trips at 20 percent (Chart 2).

Chart 2. Connecticut Work-Related Deaths 2012-2016 By Event

Table 3. CT Fatal Occupational Injuries by Event or Exposure

Occupations
From 2012 to 2016, Connecticut had a total of 172 work related deaths. Of these, 28 percent were in the transportation and material moving occupations category. Seventy-five percent of these were motor vehicle operators, with material moving workers representing an additional 21 percent. The construction and extraction occupational group, with 44 fatalities, came in second. Carpenters and construction laborers each had eight. Also in this category are drywall and ceiling tile installers, highway maintenance workers, and roofers (
Table 4). Nationally, fatal injuries among transportation and material moving occupations increased to 1,388, accounting for more than one quarter of all deaths. Construction and extraction occupations lost 970 workers, for a rate of 12.4. Logging workers continued to have a high rate at 135.9 (91 deaths), followed by fishers and related fishing workers with a rate of 86.0 (24 deaths).

Table 4. CT Fatal Occupational Injuries by Occupation

Identifying Work-Related Deaths
The Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) program requires a minimum of two sources to verify a work-related death. The media is often the first notice of a work-related death. Other resources include death certificates, coast guard reports, the NHTSA (National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration), and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration). While every attempt is made to capture every work-related death, some are missed. The CFOI program uses diverse state, federal, and independent data sources to identify, verify, and describe fatal work injuries. This ensures counts are as complete and accurate as possible. It is important to note that the Bureau of Labor Statistics holds all information on companies and the deceased in strict confidence. Information is never shared for compliance measures. OSHA requires all employers to report workplace fatalities within eight hours. Included are small establishments and industries that are normally exempt from OSHA jurisdiction. Natural deaths, such as heart attacks, must also be reported. However, many employers are unaware of this requirement. Additionally, OSHA does not require employers to report all fatalities. Employers are not required to report:

  • Street and transportation deaths unless they occur in a construction work zone
  • Deaths on commercial or public transportation systems (airplane, subway, bus, train, etc.)
  • Deaths occurring more than 30 days after the incident,
OSHA does not investigate every work-related death. Homicides and most transportation incidents fall outside OSHA’s jurisdiction. However, OSHA is beginning to investigate some of these incidents to develop training programs. Homicides may be prevented with changes in security cameras and enforcing safety rules. Transportation deaths can be prevented with training programs on distracted driving, sleep deprivation, and safe driving techniques.

History of the Program
When President Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA) into law, a census of workplace fatalities did not exist. It was estimated that approximately 14,000 workers were killed on the job annually. While OSHA immediately began investigating workplace deaths, the U.S. Department of Labor did not have a comprehensive statistical program dedicated to documenting workplace deaths. In 1992, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) was established to track all work-related deaths and collect the much needed data. That first year, 6,217 deaths were documented nationally, with 42 in Connecticut. Since then, national numbers have dropped by 22 percent to 4,836 deaths in 2015. Since 1992, the CFOI program has seen several changes. Prior to 2006, rates were calculated per 100,000 workers. Now the rates take into account the number of hours spent in the workplace, resulting in rates per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers. The coding structure for nature, part of body, event, and sources was changed in 2011. In 2012, the program began documenting contractor status, the use of drugs or alcohol, seat belt use, and union status. Most recently, there has been a change in the release of data. Formerly, a preliminary release was made in August or September with revised, final data published in April of the following year. Beginning with the 2015 reference year, final data is now released in December – four months earlier than in past years. This December release is the only release of CFOI data. The program continues to develop to meet the needs of researchers. Hopefully, the data will continue to be used to create engineering solutions, regulations, and education programs to minimize workplace deaths.

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