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July/August 2007, Vol. 130, No. 7
Railroad-related work injury fatalities
U.S. railroads transport a third of the Nation’s freight ton-miles,1 including large products such as automobiles and bulk products such as grain, coal, and concrete.2 Railroads also transport about 1 percent of intercity passengers3 and 2 percent of urban commuters.4 Railroads employ more than 92 percent of all rail transportation workers. The rest work primarily for local governments as subway and streetcar operators and for mining, manufacturing, and marine cargo-handling operations operating their own locomotives and dinkeys that shuttle railcars containing ore, coal, and other bulk materials.5 With a fatal injury rate more than twice the all-industry rate, the railroad industry is hazardous—especially for railroad brake, signal, and switch operators. Rail vehicles pose hazards even to workers in nonrailroad occupations.
The fatality experience in railroad transportation highlights the industry’s hazardousness. Although the number of fatalities varies considerably from year to year, the box on page 18 shows that the industry’s fatality rate6 is consistently considerably higher than the rate for the total private sector.7 The substantial drop in the fatality rate during the latter half of the 10-year study period (from 12.3 fatalities per 100,000 employed for 1993–97 to 8.0 for 1998–2002) suggests that the industry is becoming safer.
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1 Table 1–46b: U.S. Ton-Miles of Freight (BTS Special Tabulation) (U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics), on the Internet at www.bts.gov/publications/national_transportation_statistics/2005/html/table_01_46b.html, last visited Dec. 20, 2006.
2 Association of American Railroads, "RR Industry Info: The North American Railroad Industry," on the Internet at www.tomorrowsrailroads.org/AboutTheIndustry/AboutTheIndustry.asp, last visited Dec. 21, 2006.
3 Long-distance file (U.S. Department of Transportation, Research and Innovative Technology Administration, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Federal Highway Administration, National Household Travel Survey, 2001).
4 Table QT-P23. Journey to Work, 2000, Census 2000 Summary File 3—Sample Data (U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau, 2000).
5 Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bulletin 2540 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2002–03), pp. 579–82.
6 The fatality rate represents the number of fatal occupational injuries per 100,000 employed workers and is calculated as where N is the number of fatal work injuries and W is the number of employed workers, based on annual average CPS estimates of employed civilians 16 years and older. For a discussion on calculating occupational fatality rates, see Guy A. Toscano and Janice A. Windau, "Profile of Fatal Work Injuries in 1996" (PDF), Compensation and Working Conditions, spring 1998, pp. 37–44.
7 The comparison is made with the total private sector because virtually all employment in railroad transportation, Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) 40, is in that sector. Industry data presented in this article are based on the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) Manual, 1987 (Office of Management and Budget, 1987). Data on fatal work injuries are from the 1993–2002 BLS Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI). This program, which has collected occupational fatality data nationwide since 1992, uses diverse data sources to identify, verify, and profile fatal work injuries. Information about each workplace fatality (occupation and other worker characteristics, equipment being used, and circumstances of the event) is obtained by cross-referencing source documents such as death certificates, workers’ compensation records, and reports to Federal and State agencies, a method which ensures that counts are as complete and accurate as possible. CFOI data do not include fatal work illnesses. More information on the CFOI is available at www.bls.gov/iif/oshfat1.htm. Starting with 2003 data, the CFOI began using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Manual, 2002 (Office of Management and Budget, 2002).
Related BLS programs
Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities
Work-related multiple-fatality incidents.—Oct. 2004.
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