Fifty per cent fewer worker deaths

New technology and tougher safety standards are affecting the fatality rate

Workplace fatalities throughout the United States dropped by half from 1980 to 1997. The trend, reported in the Indianapolis Star, is due to new technology, stricter safety laws and a shift in the economy towards safer service-industry jobs.

In 1997 – the latest date for which statistics are available - 5,285 American workers died from work-related injuries; that translates to 4.1 deaths per 100,000 workers. In 1980, that rate was 7.4.

Deaths on the job resulted from:

•car crashes (25% of deaths);
•homicides (14%); and
•machinery accidents (13%).

Mining was the most dangerous sector, with 30 deaths per 100,000 workers during the two decades. Agriculture and forestry followed at 19 100,000.

Ninety-three per cent of all workplace deaths during the 20-year span were men.

The U.S. government issued a warning about baling machines and compactors, which were responsible for 34 work-related deaths from 1992 to 1998. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said 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.

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