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NIOSH Reports for Workers’ Memorial Day 1998

NIOSH Update:

Contact: Fred Blosser (202) 260-8519
April 23, 1998

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) today reported that 88,622 workers died in the U.S. from job-related injuries from 1980 through 1994, and that hospital emergency rooms treated 3.3 million workers in 1996 for non-fatal but often severe occupational injuries. NIOSH is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The data were highlighted in two studies to be published in the April 24, 1998, issue of CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report in conjunction with Workers’ Memorial Day on April 28. Workers’ Memorial Day is a national day of remembrance for workers who have been killed or injured on the job.

The new data reaffirmed previous NIOSH findings that in the 1990s, work-related homicide surpassed machine-related injuries as the second leading cause of occupational fatalities after motor vehicle injuries, and that adolescent workers are at high risk of non-fatal job injuries.

“On the eve of Workers’ Memorial Day, these studies remind us that job-related deaths and injuries take a staggering toll on workers and businesses,” said NIOSH Director Linda Rosenstock, M.D., M.P.H.

“Generating new and better injury data is a vital part of NIOSH’s research mission,” Rosenstock also noted. “As the U.S. economy, the workforce, and the workplace undergo dramatic changes, data such as these provide the cornerstone for the efforts with our numerous and diverse partners under the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) to reduce today’s occupational injury risks and anticipate tomorrow’s emerging problems.”

In one study, NIOSH reported new findings from the nation’s most comprehensive historical data base on fatal occupational injuries, presenting national data for 1980 through 1994 and a state-by-state breakdown of data for the most recent five years in that period, 1990-94. In the other study, the institute presented an analysis of non-fatal occupational injury data from hospital ERs, a key source of injury data that have not been available for occupational safety and health research in more than a decade. Both studies drew on major partnerships in which NIOSH has worked with others in the federal government, state health agencies, and the medical community to develop and use innovative injury surveillance networks.

Other findings from the studies include these:

  • Homicides were the leading cause of work-related deaths in California, the District of Columbia, Michigan, and New York from 1990 through 1994. The study on job fatalities adds two more years of data (1993-94) to data for 1980-92 used in a 1996 NIOSH report on workplace violence, providing an even stronger base for monitoring trends and identifying state-specific patterns. In the 1996 report, NIOSH found that occupational factors that put workers at risk of homicide and non-fatal assault include exchange of money, routine contact with the public, working alone or in small numbers, working late or very early hours, or working in high crime areas.
  • In state-by-state industry breakouts for the period 1990-94, construction accounted for the highest number of job-related deaths in 19 states, manufacturing in 12 states, and agriculture/forestry/fishing in 11 states. Mining was the highest-risk industry by fatality rate (numbers of deaths per every 100,000 workers) in 26 states, and agriculture/forestry fishing in 19 states.
  • Although the toll of workplace fatalities declined markedly over time from 7,405 deaths in 1980, it still totaled 5,406 fatalities in 1994, according to analyses for the 15-year period. By industry division, the largest numbers of work-related deaths in 1980-94 occurred in construction, transportation/communications/public utilities, and manufacturing. The highest fatality rates occurred in mining, agriculture/forestry/fishing, and construction.
  • Women, younger workers, and older workers are at higher risk for non-fatal traumatic workplace injuries than standard risk calculation methods would indicate. NIOSH calculated injury risks for those groups using number of hours worked rather than the total number of workers in a given industry or occupation as is traditionally done, resulting in a more accurate assessment of risk for the groups. These analyses reaffirmed findings from previous NIOSH studies that adolescent workers are at high risk for job-related injuries.
  • Among men treated for non-fatal job injuries in ERs in 1996, those under age 25 had a significantly higher injury rate than the average for all male workers. Women under 20 had a significantly higher rate than the average for all female workers, and those 65 to 74 had a significantly lower rate.

Copies of the studies, “Fatal Occupational Injuries — United States, 1980-1994,” and “Surveillance for Nonfatal Occupational Injuries Treated in Hospital Emergency Departments–United States, 1996,” are available from the NIOSH toll-free information number, 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674) or visit NIOSH on the World Wide Web at