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Death rates from unintentional occupational injury in the United States have fallen 3% a year during 1980–96, according to updated trend data. However, death from homicide at work dropped just 1% a year and is now second only to motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of death in the job.
Death rates fell among all ages, races and in both sexes but more steeply in workers aged <20 than >50 years, in black or white workers than other races, and in males than females.
In industry death rates fell 5% a year in electrical and gas utilities; sawmilling and agriculture; fishing, hunting, and trapping; and service occupations. In transportation the reduction was modest or static. Workers living in southern and western states benefited most, where death rates fell by 7–8% a year, probably with a change from farming, mining, wood production, and fishing into retail and technical jobs. Rates in north eastern and midwest states fell only about 2–3% a year, and rates for homicide at work rose more than sixfold.
Changes in workforce and working conditions are responsible, say analysts. Lower employment in hazardous jobs is certainly true for men, and improved safety overall and changes in some industrial processes have also contributed.
Trends for 1980 to 1986 were calculated with a Poisson model. Death rates were calculated from data of the National Traumatic Occupational Fatalities (NTOF) surveillance system in workers aged ⩾16 years in 30 occupational and 48 industrial categories. The workforce at risk was calculated from 1980 and 1990 population censuses.