By James L. Curtis and Craig B. Simonsen

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BOL) has just released preliminary findings in its 2011 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary

Key preliminary findings of the 2011 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries data indicate that fatal work injuries in private truck transportation rose fourteen percent in 2011, the second consecutive year that counts have risen in that sector.  Also, fatal work injuries increased among non-Hispanic black or African-American workers and among Hispanic or Latino workers in 2011, and for workers all 20 to 24 years of age.  Fatal work injuries involving women increased slightly in 2011.

Transportation incidents accounted for more than two out of every five fatal work injuries in 2011. Of the 1,898 transportation-related incidents, about 57 percent were roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicles.

Fatal falls, slips, or trips amounted to fourteen percent of all fatal work injuries. Falls to a lower level accounted for 541 of those fatalities.  In 2011, the height of the fall was reported in 451 of the 541 fatal falls from higher level. Of those 451 cases, about one in four of the fatalities involved a fall of 10 feet or less. Another fourth occurred from a fall of over 30 feet.

A total of 472 workers were fatally injured after being struck by objects or equipment, including 219 workers who were struck by falling objects or equipment, and 192 who were struck by powered vehicles or mobile equipment not in normal operation.

As shown in the BLS chart, below, among service-providing industries in the private sector, fatal work injuries in transportation and warehousing accounted for 733 fatal work injuries in 2011, an increase of eleven percent over the final 2010 count and the highest count since 2008. The number of fatal injuries in truck transportation, the largest subsector within transportation and warehousing in terms of employment, increased by fourteen percent in 2011, led by a 16 percent increase in general freight trucking and a 12 percent increase in specialized freight trucking.

Among other transportation subsectors, fatal work injuries in air transportation were lower, but fatalities in water and rail transportation were higher in 2011. Fatal work injuries in the professional and business services sector were up 16 percent, led by an increase in fatalities in landscape services to 167 in 2011, up from 133 in 2010.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) uses this data when developing strategies for what industries to focus OSHA’s enforcement efforts. Accordingly, industries with higher fatality rates can expect greater attention from the OSHA inspectors, and their state equivalents. Up-to-date company safety policies and vigilance in employee safety training may make the difference in keeping your workforce safe, and in fending off OSHA enforcement proceedings.