Fewer fatal occupational injuries occurred in 2002 than in any year since data was first compiled in 1992, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 5,524 workers were killed on the job last year, a 6.6 percent decline from the previous year.

Construction remained atop the list of industries with the most fatalities (1,121; 20% of fatalities in all industries). However, construction deaths declined nine percent from the series high recorded in 2001. General building contractors (SIC 15) endured 189 deaths (3%); heavy construction, except building (SIC 16) had 246 (4%) and special trades contractors (SIC 17) had 661 (12%).

Fatal injuries among construction laborers also declined, from a series high of 350 in 2001 to 302 last year – a drop of 14 percent. Among these, 24 percent were due to falls to lower level, 13 percent to struck by object and 11 percent to highway incidents.

No data is available to distinguish union and non-union fatalities. A review of the data, below, identified some details relevant to LIUNA members and union contractors.

For the first time since 1998, fatalities (all industries) resulting from falls declined – from 810 in 2001 to 714 in 2002, a 12 percent drop. Falls accounted for 13 percent of all fatalities, slightly less than contact with objects and equipment (16%), and somewhat more than exposure to harmful substances or environments (10%).

Indeed, exposure to harmful substances or environments was the only event category that increased in 2002. These fatalities were up eight percent. In particular, deaths due to exposure to temperature extremes (such as heat stroke) jumped from 35 in 2001 to 60 last year.

[Steve Clark]