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July 1, 2002
Contact: Fred Blosser
CDC, National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health
(202) 401–3749

Press Release

Alaska work fatalities dropped sharply in the 1990s

Work-related deaths in Alaska declined by 49 percent overall from 1990 to 1999, with particular improvements reported in commercial fishing and helicopter logging, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a new report.

Collaborative efforts by industry, labor, government and safety professionals were instrumental in achieving this progress, said CDC officials.

However, further progress remains to be made, the report adds. For example, Alaska’s collaborative partnerships need to be continued and broadened to reduce fatal injuries in commercial aviation, and to lower the number and rates of non-fatal injuries in construction and commercial fishing.

"The Alaska experience is a gratifying example of what can be accomplished when diverse partners bring their combined talents to bear on a public health challenge," said David W. Fleming, M.D., CDC Acting Director, "We look forward to further successes as this effort continues into its second decade."

"Two steps were key for reducing work-related fatalities in Alaska in the 1990s," said Kathleen M Rest, Ph.D., M.P.A, Acting Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the division of CDC responsible for the study, "First, we worked closely with our partners to design and implement new monitoring systems to see where occupational injuries and fatalities were occurring, and why they were occurring. Then, also in close collaboration, we developed and used practical measures to reduce those risks. This teamwork was essential for achieving the results noted in the new report."

The new report, "Surveillance and Prevention of Occupational Injuries in Alaska: A Decade of Progress, 1990-1999," includes these highlights:

  • Overall, the number of work-related deaths in Alaska declined from 82 deaths in 1990 to 42 fatalities in 1999.

  • Deaths in commercial fishing declined by 67 percent, from 34 on average for 1990-92, to 11 on average for 1997-99. This decline was due in part to the introduction of new safety rules under the Commercial Fishing Industry Vessel Safety Act, and to efforts by industry, labor and government to promote safe working practices under those rules. In large part, this success reflects a decline in fatalities from drowning and hypothermia associated with vessels capsizing. More remains to be done to prevent vessels from sinking and capsizing, and also to prevent non-fatal injuries that are more likely to involve slips, falls and injuries involving equipment on board the vessel.

  • Fatalities from helicopter crashes in logging declined from a total of nine deaths during1992-93 to one death during 1994-99. The report attributes the decline to interagency collaborative efforts that led to improvements in regulatory oversight, safety workshops for the industry, and development and dissemination of safety recommendations.

  • Occupational deaths from work-related airplane crashes showed a decline from 22 deaths on average for 1990-92, to 13 deaths on average for 1997-99. However, aviation remains the leading cause of death for Alaskan workers, and is now a major area of concentration for NIOSH and its partners.

For further information about CDC research and recommendations pertaining to Alaska as well to other topics, visit NIOSH on the web at www.cdc.gov/niosh. Copies of the new report, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2002-115, are available, 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674) and from the CDC webpage.

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