PRELIMINARY results released from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the agriculture sector has experienced a decline in fatal work-related injuries — a trend that parallels the overall reduction in total U.S. work-related deaths.
In general, preliminary counts from the "Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries" showed a reduction in total U.S. fatal work injuries in 2012 compared with 2011.
Last year, 4,383 workers died from work-related injuries (Figure), down from 4,693 fatal work injuries in 2011. In addition, the rate of workplace fatal injuries for 2012 was 3.2 per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, slightly lower than the 2011 rate of 3.5.
"I am greatly encouraged by the reduction in workplace fatalities, even in a growing economy," Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez said. "It is a testament to the hard work of employers, unions, health and safety professionals and the labor department's Occupational Safety & Health Administration and Mine Safety & Health Administration. Through collaborative education and outreach efforts and effective law enforcement, these numbers indicate that we are absolutely moving in the right direction."
According to the early statistics released Aug. 22, agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting fatalities in 2012 decreased 16% to 475 from 566 in 2011.
Despite the decline in fatal work injuries for crop production, animal production, forestry and logging and the fishing sector, agriculture still holds the record for the highest industry fatal injury rate, at 21.2 fatal injuries per 100,000 FTE workers last year.
Looking more closely at the fatal work injury rate, farming and ranching remain in the top 10 — holding on to the ninth position — for the most dangerous occupation, but looking on the bright side, that was a drop from being ranked fourth in 2011. The related occupations of logging and fishing ranked in the top two positions, respectively, last year.
Within agriculture, crop production and its related manufacturing and handling counterparts were the most dangerous segment, with 230 work-related deaths, followed by animal production, with 167.
Type of incident
Across the board for total fatal injuries, transportation had the highest number of events. Transportation incidents accounted for more than two out of every five fatal work injuries in 2012.
Specifically, 1,044 cases, or 58%, of transportation-related fatal injuries were roadway incidents, while non-roadway accidents, such as a tractor overturning in a farm field, accounted for 13%.
Fatal falls, slips or trips took the lives of 668 workers in the workplace last year, down slightly from 2011, while the total number of workers fatally injured after being struck by objects or equipment increased by 7%.
For the most part, fatal work injuries in all age groups declined, except for workers under the age of 16, which nearly doubled from 10 in 2011 to 19 in 2012. Fourteen were employed as agricultural workers.
Fatal work injuries last year declined 10% for non-Hispanic white employees and 5% for Hispanic and Latino workers but rose 13% for non-Hispanic Asian workers. On the whole, there were 777 work-related injuries involving foreign-born workers in 2012, 38% of whom were born in Mexico.
Reviewing the figures for the nation, 16 states and Washington, D.C., reported higher numbers of fatal work injuries in 2012, while 32 states reported lower numbers. At 531, Texas had the largest number of work-related deaths, and numbers for South Dakota and Utah remained unchanged.