U.S. Workplace Deaths Exceed 4,500 in 2010, Report Says

After falling to record lows in each of the two previous years, workplace deaths held relatively steady in the U.S. in 2010, a preliminary tally  shows. And when the final report is released next spring, the total is likely to be up somewhat from the 2009 level.

The initial numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics add up to 4,547 fatal workplace injuries in 2010, barely changed from the final count of 4,551 the year before.

The shifting trend — on-the-job fatalities generally have declined since the mid-1990s — stemmed partly from a sharp increase in work-related deaths of police officers last year as well as the Upper Big Branch Mine and the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disasters. The explosion at the West Virginia coal mine took the lives of 29 workers, while the oil drigging blast killed 11.

In all, the mining category, which includes coal mining as well as oil drilling, accounted for 172 fatalities last year, up from 99 in 2009. The number of police officers killed on the job climbed to 134, up from 96 in 2009.

The total number of hours worked throughout the economy inched up last year, another factor that could boost on-the-job deaths.

Overall, the government counted 3.5 fatalities per 100,000 full-time workers. However, rates in many industries far exceeded that, led by fishing, which recorded 116 deaths per 100,000 workers. As CNNMoney reports, loggers and airline pilots suffered the next-highest rates of workplace deaths.

Workplace death totals tend to rise slightly by the time the final report is calculated. Over the last three years the revised number in the final report was up by an average of 174 from the preliminary tallies.

ROBERT T. NELSON

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