Last month, the U.S. Department of Labor announced figures on the number of people around the country who were killed in workplace accidents during 2011. While even one workplace death is one too many, the report shows some encouraging trends about the safety of our jobs in Pennsylvania and throughout the nation. Not only did the number of fatal accidents drop in absolute terms when compared to 2010, but the ratio of deadly injuries to workers also fell.

In 2010, there were 3.6 fatal accidents for every 100,000 workers who were employed full-time. In 2011, by contrast, that number was reduced to 3.5. Additionally, 81 fewer people died in work-related incidents during 2011 than in the year before. According to the Labor Department report, a significant plurality of fatal accidents–41 percent–were the result of transportation accidents.

The construction industry, long known as one of the most dangerous sectors for employees, appears to be experiencing a readily apparent downtrend in the number of fatal accidents from year to year. Construction worker deaths have decreased each year since 2006, accounting for a 42 percent total reduction in fatalities when 2011 data are compared to 2006. The data do not reveal, however, if those reductions are due to increased safety measures, fewer workers in the industry, or both.

Just under 10 percent of employee deaths were attributable to contact with harmful substances, while 15 percent of fatalities were caused when workers fell or slipped. Equipment accidents accounted for another 15 percent of deadly injuries.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Fewer Americans Died From Work-Related Injuries in 2011,” Josh Mitchell, Sept. 20, 2012

• Workers’ compensation provides death benefits to families of employees who are fatally injured on the job. You can learn more by visiting our Bucks County workers’ compensation page.