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  Press Summaries

June 11, 1999

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MMWR Synopsis
  1. Improvements in Workplace Safety United States, 1900-1999
  2. Heat-Related Illnesses and Deaths Missouri, 1998, and United States, 1979-1996
Fact Sheet: Creating Safer Workplaces

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Synopsis June 11, 1999

Improvements in Workplace Safety United States, 1900-1999
During the 20th century, substantial progress has been achieved in reducing hazardous conditions and deaths in U.S. workplaces.

Fred Blosser
CDC, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
(202) 401-0721
Work-related injury fatalities have dropped dramatically, both overall and in particularly high-risk industries like mining. If workers in the late 1990s were still dying at rates experienced in the 1930s, an additional 40,000 lives would be lost each year to workplace injuries. This progress has been achieved through the efforts of workers, unions, employers, government agencies, and others by such means as research, education and training, and regulatory actions. The mechanisms of change have ranged from physical workplace modifications like improved ventilation and safer equipment to the introduction of safer work practices and better training of workers . For example, since the first decades of this century, various safety measures have reduced the average number of U.S. miners killed annually in coal mine fires and explosions (from an average of 477 deaths per year in 1906-1910 to fewer than 3 deaths per year in 1991-1995).

  Heat-Related Illnesses and Deaths Missouri, 1998, and United States, 1979-1996
Injuries, illnesses, and deaths from both man-made and weather-related heat can be prevented.
Enzo Campagnolo, D.V.M., M.P.H.
CDC, National Center for Environmental Health
(770) 488-7350
During 1979-1996, exposure to extreme hot temperatures caused an annual average of 381 deaths in the United States. Persons at increased risk for heat-related illness and death include the very young (infants), the elderly (>65 years); persons with impaired mobility; persons physically active in hot environments, who fail to rest frequently or drink enough fluids; and persons using certain drugs which impair thermoregulatory function or inhibit perspiration. In addition, excessive alcohol consumption can cause dehydration and be a predisposing risk factor. This report describes four instances of heat-related deaths that occurred in the State of Missouri in 1998, summarizes U. S. heat-related deaths during 1979-1996, and describes the risk factors associated with heat-related illness and death. For more information on extreme visit this site,

Creating Safer Workplaces

June 11, 1999
Contact: Fred Blosser
CDC, National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health
(202) 401-0721
CDC, Division of Media Relations
(404) 639-3286

At the beginning of this century, workers in the United States faced remarkably high health and safety risks on the job. Through the efforts of individual workers, unions, employers, government agencies, academic researchers, and others, considerable progress has been made in improving safety and health at work. If workers today had the same risk of dying from injuries as workers in the 1930's, an additional 40,000 lives would be lost each year. Despite the success achieved to date, much work remains to be done, with the ultimate goal that all workers have a productive and safe working life and a retirement free from occupational disease and injury.

While historical data are limited, the following information highlights the overall declines in occupational fatalities during this century.

Decreases in fatal occupational injuries

From July 1906 through June 1907 in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, 195 steelworkers died in workplace incidents. In 1997, workplace incidents killed 17 steelworkers nationwide.

  • From 1911 through 1997, approximately 103,000 miners died at work. From 1911 through 1915, there were an average of 3329 mining deaths per year, corresponding to an overall average annual fatality rate of 329 per 100,000 workers for this industry. Over the century, the injury fatality rates for miners have decreased nearly 13-fold, to 25 per 100,000 during 1996-97. The corresponding average annual number of deaths in the mining industry has dropped from 3329 to 89, approximately a 37-fold decrease.
  • In 1912, an estimated 18,000-21,000 workers died in the United States from work-related injuries. In 1913, the Bureau of Labor Statistics documented approximately 23,000 industrial deaths among a workforce of 38 million, for a rate of 60.5 deaths per 100,000 workers. National Safety Council data from 1933 through 1997 indicate that work-related death rate declined 90%, from 37 per 100,000 workers in 1933 to 4 per 100,000 in 1997. The corresponding annual number of deaths decreased from 14,500 to 5100. During this same period, the workforce more than tripled, from 39 million to approximately 130 million.
  • Data compiled from CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), National Traumatic Occupational Fatalities (NTOF) surveillance system, indicate that the annual total number of deaths declined 28% from 7405 in 1980 to 5314 in 1995 (the most recent year for which NTOF data are available). The average rate for occupational injury deaths for all workers decreased 43% during the same time, from 7.5 to 4.3 per 100,000 workers.
  • Industries with the highest average rates for fatal occupational injury during 1980-1995 included mining (30.3 deaths per 100,000 workers), agriculture/forestry/fishing (20.1), construction (15.2), and transportation/communications/public utilities (13.4). Leading causes of fatal occupational injury during the period include motor vehicle-related injuries, workplace homicides, and machine-related injuries.

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