The Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, has issued a preliminary count of fatal work injuries in the U.S. 2009. The data shows a total of 4,340 fatal work injuries, down from a revised total of 5,214 in 2008, continuing a downward trend that began in 2007. Overall, fatal work injuries are down 26 percent since 2006. The 2009 total represents the smallest annual preliminary total since the bureau’s Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) program was first conducted in 1992.

Based on this preliminary count, the rate of fatal work injury for U.S. workers in 2009 was 3.3 per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, down from a final rate of 3.7 in 2008. However, counts and rates are likely to increase with the release of final 2009 CFOI results in April 2011. Over the last two years, increases in the published counts based on information received after the publication of preliminary results have averaged 156 fatalities per year or about three percent of the revised totals.

Economic factors played a major role in the fatal work injury decrease in 2009. Total hours worked fell by six percent in 2009 following a one percent decline in 2008, and some industries that have historically accounted for a significant share of fatal work injuries — such as construction — experienced even larger declines in employment or hours worked. In addition, some source documents used by CFOI state partners to identify and verify fatal work injuries were delayed, due at least in part to fiscal constraints at some of the governmental agencies that regularly provide source documentation for the program.

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