Workplace deaths down by half in U.S. over two decades
Thursday, April 26th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
ATLANTA (AP) _ Workplace deaths in the United States have dropped by nearly half over the past two decades, the government said Thursday, crediting new technology, stricter safety regulations and a shift in the economy toward safer service-industry jobs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 5,285 workers died from on-the-job injuries in 1997, the latest year for which figures are available. That is a rate of 4.1 deaths per 100,000 workers _ down 45 percent from 1980, when it was 7.4.
``The hazards workers face are considerably different,'' said Suzanne Marsh, a statistician at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. ``We're moving from an industrial country to a more of a service-oriented country.''
The CDC also credited new technology and stricter safety regulations.
Car crashes have accounted for one in four on-the-job deaths since 1980, the CDC said. Homicides accounted for 14 percent and machinery accidents 13 percent.
Mining was easily the most dangerous sector, with 30 deaths per 100,000 workers over the two decades. Agriculture and forestry followed at 19 per 100,000.
The CDC cautioned that its numbers probably underestimate the number of deaths in the workplace because the agency measures them using a nationwide survey of death certificates. The Labor Department issues its own set of statistics on workplace deaths, tracking them with a more comprehensive method that also scours federal regulatory reports and news clippings.
Those numbers go back only to 1992 but have shown a similar trend _ a steady drop in deaths at work.
``There's been more emphasis on prevention by employers, government and workers,'' said William Weber, a Labor Department assistant commissioner. ``People's consciousness was raised.''
The CDC report said men accounted for 93 percent of all workplace deaths over the two decades.
``There's a possibility they are in some of the riskier industries,'' Marsh said. ``They tend to work in the construction industry, in industries that would face a higher danger.''
In a separate report, the CDC said U.S. workers were treated in emergency rooms for 3.6 million work-related injuries in 1998. Hands and fingers were the most commonly treated body part.
The government also issued a warning about baling machines and compacters, which were tied to 34 work-related deaths from 1992 to 1998.
The CDC issued its workplace injury statistics in advance of Workers Memorial Day, which is Saturday.