Mining, police work most dangerous U.S. jobs

Workplace homicides declined to lowest level ever recorded
By Molly O'Toole
||Last Updated: 08/31/2011

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Disasters at a United States coal mine and aboard an oil rig operated by British Petroleum in the Gulf of Mexico again made mining one of the most dangerous jobs in 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In private mining, fatal work injuries rose 74 per cent to 172 in 2010 from 99 per year earlier, the agency's figures showed.

Fatality rates for mining rose to 19.9 in 2010 from 12.4 in 2009 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers.

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig off the Gulf coast, licensed to British Petroleum, exploded and killed 11 workers last April, causing the largest accidental oil spill into an ocean in history.

Also last April, an explosion at the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia owned by Massey Energy killed 29 miners.

The police profession was not far behind mining as a dangerous occupation, with the number of fatalities increasing by 40 per cent to 134 last year from 96 in 2009.

Of the total police officers who died on the job in 2010, 57 cases involved highway incidents and 48 involved homicides.

A preliminary total of 4,547 fatal work injuries were recorded in the United States in 2010, a slight drop from the final count of 4,551 fatalities in 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

When the Occupational Safety and Health Act passed in 1970, some 14,000 workers died each year on the job, according to a statement on the report from Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.

Now an average of 12 workers die on the job every day.

"My constant focus is 'good jobs for everyone,' and safety is an essential part of that equation," Solis said.

As for causes, deaths from fires more than doubled to 109 in 2010 from 53 in 2009, the highest count since 2003.

Transportation accidents decreased slightly but still accounted for almost two of every five fatalities in 2010.

Workplace homicides declined to their lowest total ever recorded by the census, dropping seven per cent in 2010 to 506. That was a decline of more than 50 per cent from the high of 1,080 homicides reported in 1994. But workplace homicides involving women increased by 13 per cent last year.

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