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Electrocution still leads in deaths at work

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The most comprehensive study ever conducted in the United States has shown that electrocution continues to be a major cause of death among workers because they and their employers do not recognise the importance of safety training and implementing safe practices.

The findings were based on data spanning 1992–9 collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injury (CFOI). They showed the need for much more vigilance in ensuring that regulations on safety training and safe practice are followed. This applied particularly to small firms and young employees. These latest findings also spelt out safety practices for work on or around power cables, especially when operating vehicles or machinery with booms.

As in previous studies with other national datasets most deaths (99%; 0.43/100 000 /year) occurred in young men (aged 24–30), mainly in white, American Indian, and black men. They peaked in summer, in firms of ⩽ 10 workers, and in southern states—a new observation.

Fatal electrocutions by trade were highest in construction (2.10/100 000 /year); mining (2.38/100 000 /year); and farming forestry, and fishing (1.16/100 000 /year) industries. Within construction electricians came off worst—those installing or repairing power supplies (15.9/100 000 /year) and their supervisors (7.78/100 000 /year); apprentices (8.25/100 000 /year); and qualified electricians 6.11/100 000 /year). Drilling workers were also at risk—in fact all had been killed by contact with overhead power cables. In agriculture deaths were highest among supervisors of farm workers (3.41/100 000/year).

The CFOI, unlike other occupational databases, covers all trades and compiles its statistics from many diverse sources.