Executive Summary: Work-related fatalities are a significant public health problem in Massachusetts, as they are in the United States. Information about the occupations, industries and circumstances in which these fatalities occur is essential to guide efforts to prevent future fatalities. Since 1991, the Massachusetts Department of Public health has collected information on all fatal occupational injuries in the Commonwealth as part of the national Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, conducted in cooperation with the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the U.S. Department of Labor. This report provides a comprehensive overview of fatal occupational injuries in Massachusetts during 1991-1999. It includes a comparison of the occupational fatality experience in Massachusetts with that of the nation as a whole. It also includes more detailed findings on three specific topics: falls to lower levels, workrelated homicides, and fishing-related fatalities. Findings are intended to guide the many players - government agencies, employers, unions, safety professionals, advocacy organizations, researchers, job trainers, and equipment design engineers - who have important roles to play in preventing fatal injuries at work. Key findings - Overview: 1) A total of 633 workers died as a result of fatal occupational injuries sustained in Massachusetts during 1991-1999 - an average of between one and two workers each week. 2) The annual average fatality rate was 2.3 fatalities per 100,000 workers. There was no clear-cut trend in fatality rates over the nine-year period (Chart 1). Gender, Age, Race, and Hispanic Origin: 1) The great majority of victims (93%) were male, and male workers had a much higher rate of fatal occupational injury than female workers (Chart 2). 2) The rate of fatal occupational injury increased markedly with the age of the workers (Chart 3). 3) Workers of Hispanic origin (regardless of race) had a high rate of fatal occupational injury compared to black and white workers (Chart 4). 4) Foreign-born workers accounted for a high proportion of fatal injuries among workers of color and made up a disproportionate share of the victims of workplace homicide. Industries, Occupations, and Fatal Events: 1) Agriculture (excluding Fishing and Forestry) had the highest fatal occupational injury rate, more than five times the average rate for all industry divisions (Chart 5). Two thirds of the 35 fatalities in this industry division involved workers employed in landscaping and horticultural services. 2) The Construction industry division had both a high number of fatal injuries (136) and the second highest fatal occupational injury rate. More than half of the construction workers fatally injured on the job died as a result of falls. 3) The Farming, Forestry and Fishing occupation group had the highest fatality rate, more than thirteen times the average rate for all occupations. Most of the workers in this group (57 of 95) were fishers. Commercial fishing claimed more lives than any other single occupation (Chart 6). 4) Fatal occupational injuries due to transportation-related incidents - including land, water, and air transport incidents - lead all event categories. Within this category, highway motor vehicle incidents and water vehicle incidents were the most frequent events resulting in 84 and 51 fatalities respectively. 5) Falls to lower levels was the leading single fatal event in Massachusetts, accounting for 118 fatalities (Table1). Sector, Establishment Size and Investigations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration: 1) A total of 69 government employees died on the job. 2) Self-employed workers had a higher occupational fatality rate (more than twice) than wage and salary workers. 3) Small establishments (with 19 or fewer employees) had a high fatal occupational injury rate, more than one and a half times the average rate for establishments of all sizes (Chart 7). 4) More than 60% of the occupational fatalities were not inspected by OSHA because; a) they did not fall under OHSA's jurisdiction; or b) they resulted from events that are not routinely investigated by the agency; or c) death occurred more than 30 days after the injury (Chart 8). Falls to Lower Levels: 1) Most fatal falls to lower levels (61%, 72 fatalities) occurred in the construction industry division and two-thirds of these occurred in small establishments with 10 or fewer employees (Chart 11). 2) The fatal fall rate in construction was as high as sixteen times the average fatal fall rate for all industries (Table 6). 3) Older workers had a six-fold increased risk of fatal falls to lower levels compared to workers of all age groups (Chart 13). Work-related Homicides: 1) Work-related homicide was the third leading fatal event, accounting for 82 fatalities. 2) Work-related homicides were concentrated in a small number of industries and occupations (Chart 14). 3) Male workers had a higher rate of workplace homicide than female workers. 4) Homicide was the leading fatal event among black and Hispanic workers. 5) Robbery was the leading precipitating circumstance, where motive was known, of work-related homicides (Chart 15). 6) Workplace homicides are more likely to result from shooting than non-workplace homicide. Fishing: 1) Most work-related fishing fatalities occurred as a result of sinking or capsizing of fishing vessels (Chart 16). 2) Most (61%) fishing fatalities occurred during fall and winter seasons (Chart 17). Comparison with national occupational fatality experience: 1) Massachusetts had lower annual fatal occupational injury rates than the nation for each year of the period under consideration (Chart 9). The rate difference was in part explained by the difference in the occupation composition and industry mix of the labor force between Massachusetts and the nation. Low homicide and motor vehicle related death rates in Massachusetts have also contributed to the low fatal injury rate of the state. 2) Falls accounted for a much higher proportion (21%) of work-related fatal injuries in Massachusetts than in the nation (11%) (Appendix 2).
Traumatic-injuries; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Surveillance-programs; Mortality-data; Mortality-rates; Mortality-surveys; Occupations; Age-factors; Age-groups; Racial-factors; Sex-factors; Humans; Men; Women; Adolescents; Agricultural-workers; Agriculture; Construction; Construction-workers; Fall-protection; Farmers; Fishing-industry; Forestry; Forestry-workers; Transportation; Transportation-workers; Small-businesses; Statistical-analysis
Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Bureau of Health Statistics, Research and Evaluation Occupational Health Surveillance Program, 250 Washington Street, 6th floor, Boston, MA 02108