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August 1995, Vol. 118, No. 8
Martin E. Personick and Janice A. Windau
"His brow is wet with Honest sweat.
he earns whate'er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man."
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The Village Blacksmith (1842)
W orking for oneself can be rewarding for individuals, like Longfellow's smithy, who place high value on controlling the nature and pace of their efforts and are not overly concerned about an unpredictable earnings stream. Being self-employed, however, can carry considerable safety risks and responsibilities, such as tackling hazardous work activities without adequate resources for safety training and equipment and without the oversight and guidance of government safety regulations. (See the appendix for a description of worker safety and health coverage by Federal and State agencies.) In 1993, the self-employed as a group made up about 1 in every 5 fatal injuries at work, higher than their one-tenth share of the American work force, according to the Census of Fatal Occupational Injures and the Current Population Survey (CPS).1 And certain groups of the self-employed faced an especially high risk of dying on the job, such as older farmers operating tractors and other vehicles and managers and proprietors tending to stores, bars, restaurants, and repair shops where many robbery-related homicides occur.
This article analyzes new information on the self-employed who are fatally injured at work, such as their occupation, age, and other characteristics; the industry they worked in; and the circumstances surrounding their death. The BLS Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries is the source of these data. It cross-references death certificates, newspapers, and other reports to verify that fatal injuries were work related and to obtain key information on the "who and how" of each incident. Of the 6,271 fatal work injuries counted in the 1993 BLS census, 1,191 were identified as self-employed individuals, 4,981 were wage and salary workers, and 99 others were primarily family workers.
This excerpt is from an article published in the August 1995 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 For a comprehensive account of the 1993 BLS census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, see Guy Toscano and Janice Windau, "The changing character of fatal work injuries," Monthly Labor Review, October 1994, pp. 17-28
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