Flickr photo by Greg Younger
If the recession has a silver lining, it may be the decline in workplace deaths: Fatal job injuries were down 17 percent last year, in large part because Americans worked fewer hours, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Nationwide, 4,340 workers died on the job in 2009, compared to 5,214 in 2008. The preliminary count puts workplace deaths at their lowest since 1992, when the the bureau began tracking the data.
California was among the 37 states reporting fewer fatal work injuries last year. The preliminary count says 301 employees died in California last year – a third fewer than in 2008, when 465 died.
Job losses in dangerous industries such as construction were a major factor in the decline. California shed 167,600 construction jobs in 2009, according to the state Employment Development Department.
Fewer jobs meant fewer hours. On average, Americans clocked in 6 percent fewer hours last year. For construction workers, hours fell 17 percent. Similarly, fatalities in construction dropped 16 percent.
Deaths on the job increased in some industries, including building and grounds cleaning and maintenance, and wholesale trade. But the deadliest job in the country was fishing. The fatality rate for commercial fishers was 60 times higher than the average rate for all workers.
The most common cause of worker deaths in California last year was transportation accidents - 95 in total. Other causes included assaults and violent acts (79), contact with objects and equipment (41), falls (54), exposure to harmful substances or environments (24) and fires and explosions (6).