Workplace Safety Improves, Number of Work Fatalities Falls

From the Bureau of Labor Statistics:


A total of 5,488 fatal work injuries were recorded in the United States in 2007, a decrease of 6 percent from the revised total of 5,840 fatal work injuries reported for 2006. While these results are considered preliminary, this figure represents the smallest annual preliminary total since the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) program was first conducted in 1992. Final results for 2007 will be released in April 2009.

Based on these preliminary counts, the rate of fatal injury for U.S. workers in 2007 was 3.7 fatal work injuries per 100,000 workers, down from the final rate of 4.0 per 100,000 workers in 2006, and the lowest annual fatality rate ever reported by the fatality census.

From Labor Secretary Chao’s statement:

“This is continued evidence that the initiatives and programs to protect workers’ safety and health, designed by and implemented in this administration, are indeed working. In addition to a decline in the overall number of fatalities, the rate for 2007 declined to 3.7 fatalities per 100,000 workers. This is the lowest fatality rate in recorded OSHA history.”

From The New York Times story, “Fatalities in the Workplace Declined in 2007“:

Eric Frumin, health and safety coordinator for Change to Win, a federation of seven unions, said Ms. Chao’s take was misleading because the sharp drop in workplace transportation deaths, one of the causes of the overall drop in fatalities, largely fell under the jurisdiction of state and federal transportation agencies, not OSHA.

Moreover, Mr. Frumin pointed to a series of fatal construction accidents in Las Vegas and a death at an industrial laundry plant in Tulsa, all of which occurred in 2007, as evidence that OSHA was still not adequately enforcing its own regulations.

So attacking the Administration is more important to this top union official than is acknowledging progress. Frumin’s reaction tells you that politics and power drive organized labor, more so than concern for the employees.

The Times story, by the way, appeared on page A16 of the New York print edition; we didn’t find it in the edition that comes to the Washington area. But how about Page A1, or lead of the business page? You can bet that a story reporting a record high of workplace fatalities would be a top story.

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