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NIOSH Recommends Ways to Prevent Fatalities From Work-Related Roadway Crashes

April 7, 2004
NIOSH Update:

Contact: Fred Blosser (202) 401-3749

At work, more people die in motor vehicle crashes than from any other cause. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) today described leading risk factors for fatal, work-related roadway crashes, and made recommendations for preventing such work-related deaths.

NIOSH presented the findings and recommendations in two companion fact sheets, “Work-Related Roadway Crashes: Who’s at Risk?” and “Work-Related Roadway Crashes: Prevention Strategies for Employers.” NIOSH issued the fact sheets in conjunction with World Health Day 2004, the theme of which is road safety.

“The fact sheets provide new information that employers and others can use for assessing risks for motor vehicle injuries and deaths in their work settings, and for taking effective steps to reduce those risks,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D.

As a key step in preventing job-related fatalities in motor vehicle crashes, employers should establish and enforce workplace driver safety policies, NIOSH recommended. Occupational safety and health professionals also can help by promoting safe driving practices among employees, supporting collection and analysis of data needed to identify risk factors and interventions, fostering partnerships, and assessing interventions, NIOSH added. Effective strategies for reducing motor-vehicle related crash injuries in the general public can also reduce work-related crash injuries.

Risk Factors and Populations at Risk

NIOSH used two complementary sets of data for determining risk factors in work-related roadway crashes, and for identifying worker populations at highest risk. Data were analyzed for 1992-2001 from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), a multiple-source system for tracking occupational fatalities. Data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) covered 1997-2002. FARS is a census of all traffic crashes reported to the police in which a person who was injured in the crash died within the next 30 days.

Between 1992 and 2001, job-related motor vehicle crashes accounted for 13,337 deaths among the civilian work force, CFOI data show. Males accounted for 11,931 deaths, or 89 percent of the total, with a fatality rate 6 times higher than that for females. Fatality rates increased sharply beginning with age 55, with the highest rate (6.4 deaths per 100,000 employees) among employees 75 and older.

Worker fatalities due to crashes most often involved collisions between vehicles (49 percent), followed by single-vehicle incidents such as vehicle rollovers that did not involve a collision with another vehicle or with a pedestrian (26 percent), and collisions between a vehicle and a stationary object on the roadside (18 percent). Vehicles occupied by fatally injured employees most often were semi-trucks (28 percent of all fatalities), followed by cars (24 percent), other and unspecified trucks (18 percent) and pickup trucks (12 percent).The highest number and rate of fatal work-related crashes occurred in the transportation, communications, and public utilities industry, which includes commercial trucking (4,358 fatalities, 4.64 per 100,000 full-time employees).

In 1997-2002, 5,798 worker fatalities occurred in 5,626 vehicles, data from FARS show. These data indicate that 56 percent of fatally injured workers were not wearing a seat belt or had no seat belt available, and 28 percent were wearing a seat belt. Factors associated with the worker’s vehicle that were judged to have contributed to the fatal crash were: running off the road or failing to stay in the proper lane (2,599 [46%]), driving over the speed limit or too fast for conditions (1,284 [23%]), driver inattention (609 [11%]), and driver drowsiness (373 [7%]).

Practical Steps to Preventing Fatalities

As part of a driver safety program, NIOSH recommended, employers should:

  • Provide a key member of the management team with responsibility and authority to set and enforce a comprehensive driver safety policy.
  • Require use of seat belts by all persons in a vehicle used on the job.
  • Select vehicles that provide high levels of occupant protection.
  • Maintain complete and accurate records of driving performance.
  • Stipulate that driving is a task that requires full attention, including instructions to avoid placing or taking cell phone calls while the vehicle is in operation.
  • Set schedules that allow adequate time for employees to make deliveries or visit clients without violating traffic laws or safety regulations.
  • Ensure that employees are properly licensed and trained to operate the vehicle they are assigned.
  • Implement a vehicle maintenance program that includes pre-trip inspections, immediate withdrawal from service of any vehicle with mechanical defects, and regularly scheduled withdrawal of vehicles for comprehensive inspection and maintenance.

NIOSH is working extensively with the World Health Organization, CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Pan-American Health Organization, and other partners to disseminate information and recommendations for preventing motor vehicle injuries. Further information about NIOSH research and recommendations for preventing work-related motor vehicle injuries and fatalities is available on the NIOSH web page at

“Work-Related Roadway Crashes: Prevention Strategies for Employers,” DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2004-136, is available on the web in English and Spanish language versions at . “Work-Related Roadway Crashes: Who’s at Risk?”, DHHS Publication No. 2004-137, is available on the web in English and Spanish language versions at .