26 February 2006

Worker Safety

Not all industries are equally safe (see Table 645). Ranked from most to least dangerous by industry, the industries appear as follows in workplace deaths per 100,000 employees:

Forestry, Fishing and Mining 31 (7% homicide)
Transportation and Warehousing 18 (9% homicide)
Construction 12 (3% homicide)
Waste Management 7 (10% homicide)
Wholesale Trade 4 (12% homicide)
Utilities 4 (9% homicide)
Real Estate 3 (38% homicide)
Government 3 (19% homicide)
Retail Trade 2 (57% homicide)
Manufacturing 2 (10% homicide)
Information Services 2 (13% homicide)
Leisure and Hospitality 2 (54% homicide)
Professional and Business Services (not waste management) 1 (25% homicide)
Finance and Insurance 1 (36% homicide)
Education and Health Services 1 (19% homicide)

Homicide is not exactly your typical workplace accident, but it is one of the two main sources of on the job deaths in the safer industries, the other being traffic accidents, which also, while clearly a hazard, are in many of the safer industries largely incidental to the main workplace activities.

Factories are no longer very dangerous, but mining, forestry, fishing, farming, construction and truck driving remain hazardous occupations. These industries account for half of the workplace fatalities in the nation, and even a much larger share than that of non-homicide, non-traffic fatalities. Many of these industries are dominanted by small businesses and some like farming, are exempted from many regulations that apply to other industries.

It may be time to reconsider how we address workplace safety that addresses these concerns.

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