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Since 1992, the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) has collected and published a comprehensive count of work-related fatal injuries and descriptive data on their circumstances. Limited information on fatalities had been available since 1972 from the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII).
CFOI data help safety and health experts and policymakers monitor the number and types of deadly work injuries over time and to identify factors associated with particularly high risks, such as driving a tractor trailer, being a Hispanic or Latino worker, and working in the commercial fishing industry.1 Fatal injury profiles can be generated from the CFOI database for specific worker groups (such as the self-employed or female workers), for certain types of machinery (such as farm equipment), and for specific fatal circumstances (such as pedestrian fatalities in a work zone). Such profiles help identify existing work standards that may require revision and highlight safety problems where intervention strategies may need to be developed.
CFOI is widely regarded as the preeminent source for data on fatal injuries in the workplace. In 1994 and 1995, several groups of safety experts, including the National Safety Council and the National Center for Health Statistics, endorsed CFOI as the official count of work-related fatalities, in preference to other, less comprehensive measures.
In accordance with Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) policies, individually identifiable data collected by CFOI are used exclusively for statistical purposes and are confidential. Some of these data are collected under a pledge of confidentiality and therefore are protected under the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act of 2002 (CIPSEA).
CFOI includes data for all fatal work injuries as long as the decedents were engaged in an activity related to work. Further clarification on the scope of CFOI can be found on the CFOI scope page.
CFOI includes data for all fatal work injuries, regardless of whether the decedent was working in a job covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or other federal or state agencies or whether the job is covered by state workers’ compensation. Consequently, comparisons made between the BLS fatality census counts and those released by other federal or state agencies should take into account the different coverage requirements and definitions used by each agency.
Fatal occupational illnesses are not included in CFOI. The latency period of many occupational illnesses and the difficulties associated with linking illnesses directly to the workplace pose substantial obstacles to compiling a complete census of fatal illnesses within a given year. Determinations of work-relatedness are far more difficult for occupational illnesses than they are for occupational injuries. Thus, information on illness-related deaths is excluded from the CFOI count.
CFOI covers not only private, state government, and local government wage and salary workers covered in SOII, but also workers on small farms, the self-employed, family workers, and federal government workers not covered by SOII. Table 1 details the differences between CFOI and SOII.
Because of these scope coverage differences, outlined in table 1, CFOI and SOII data are not directly comparable.
|Collection method||Uses multiple source documents (e.g., death certificates, workers’ compensation reports, and media reports) to substantiate each case, ensuring a census.||Uses a sample of approximately 230,000 establishments to generate detailed estimates. Mandatory survey from BLS for private sector establishments.(1)|
|Geographic scope||Data are collected from each state, the District of Columbia, New York City, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam.||Data are collected from participating states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam.(2)|
|Private sector workers||Included||Included|
|Government workers||Includes federal, state, local, foreign, and other government workers||Includes state and local workers since 2008 uniformly across the nation(3)|
|Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting||Included||Agriculture establishments with more than 10 employees(7)|
|Treatment of temporary workers||Coded to the industry in which they are directly employed(10)||Coded to the industry in which they were injured|
|Specific industries||All included||Private households and Postal workers not included (11)|
|Age of workers included||All||All|
|Cases that occur in territorial waters||Included||Included(12)|
(2) Data for nonparticipating states are collected and used solely for the tabulation of national estimates.
(3) SOII does not cover workers regulated by other federal agencies, 29 U.S.C. § 653(b)(1) (2011) For example, mines regulated by the Mine Safety and Health Administration or rail transportation firms regulated by the Federal Railroad Administration, nor does it cover federal workers per 29 U.S.C. § 652(5) (2011).
(4) Self-employed workers are not covered by the Occupational Safety Act of 1970. https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&p_id=12775.
(5) See Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI): Definitions, https://www.bls.gov/iif/definitions/census-of-fatal-occupational-injuries-definitions.htm and Fatal Occupational Injuries to Volunteer Workers, 2003–2007 (Gunter, 2010).
(6) Different state OSHA plans may cover volunteers. For more information on if a state covers volunteers, please contact the respective state OSHA office. National OSHA regulations do not cover volunteer workers, please see 29 C.F.R. § 1904(31)(a) (2013). See also: http://webapps.dol.gov/elaws/osha/recordkeeping/05.aspx.
(7) The “small agriculture” exclusion is due to a recurring appropriations rider for OSHA that exempts agricultural operations employing 10 or fewer employees from the 1970 OSH Act in its entirety, including mandatory response to the BLS annual survey (Pollack and Gellerman Keimig, 1987: 19). See for example, OSHA Directive CPL-02-00-051.
(8) Mining data are collected by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and are provided to SOII for inclusion in the estimates.
(9) Railroad data are collected by the Federal railroad Administration (FRA) and are provided to SOII for inclusion in the estimates.
(10) Starting in 2011, CFOI began collecting information on contractors and now temporary workers are coded to their directly employed industry as in the past, but also the industry to which they were fatally injured in as well, contractor industry. For more information on contractor data in CFOI see: https://www.bls.gov/iif/definitions/census-of-fatal-occupational-injuries-definitions.htm.
(11) Though technically no longer excluded from coverage under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 due to amended language in the 1998 Postal Employees Safety Enhancement Act, BLS has not yet modified SOII to include the U.S. Postal Service.
(12) Cases that occur in territorial waters within 3 nautical miles from the general coastline or 9 nautical miles (3 leagues) from Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico are included. For additional rules including if the vessel is attached to the seabed see: https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=INTERPRETATIONS&p_id=29408.
For a fatality to be included in CFOI, the decedent must have been self-employed, working for pay, or volunteering at the time of the incident; engaged in a legal work activity; and present at the site of the incident as a job requirement.2 These criteria are generally broader than those used by federal and state agencies administering specific laws and regulations. Fatalities that occur during a person’s normal commute to or from work are excluded from CFOI counts.
An occupational injury is defined as any wound or damage to the body resulting from acute exposure to energy, such as heat, electricity, or impact from a vehicle crash or fall, or from the absence of such essentials as heat or oxygen, caused by a specific event or exposure within a single workday or shift. Included are open wounds, intracranial and internal injuries, heatstroke, hypothermia, asphyxiation, acute poisonings resulting from short-term exposures limited to the worker's shift, suicides and homicides, and work injuries listed as underlying or contributory causes of death.
There are many combinations of the general guidelines listed above that can deem a fatality to be work related or not. For detailed descriptions and examples of the scope criteria for CFOI, see the CFOI Scope Determination Handbook.
For more information on the CFOI scope, definitions, and variables of interest, see the CFOI definitions page. The frequently asked questions page also contains useful information.
Over 30 data elements are collected, coded, and tabulated in CFOI, including information about the worker and the circumstances surrounding the fatal incident. Some of the elements collected include the following:
BLS publishes statistics on nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses from SOII and fatal workplace injuries from CFOI. Most of these data can be located at the IIF homepage. SOII and CFOI share several systems to classify industry, occupation, case circumstances, and worker characteristics. Changes among these systems over the past several years have affected SOII (both estimates by industry and by case circumstances and worker characteristics) and CFOI outputs, as described below. More information on these classifications and how they have affected the data series can be found in the online notice, the presentation section and the history section.
BLS has long relied on state, regional, and national staff to manually assign SOC and Occupational Injury and Illness Classification System (OIICS) codes, but in recent years their role in SOII coding has begun to shift. Motivated by a desire to improve coding quality and by evidence that new automated techniques might result in classification accuracies similar to those achieved by staff,3 BLS began using computers to automatically assign SOC codes to a portion of SOII cases starting with reference year 2014 data. For reference year 2015, BLS expanded autocoding further to include some OIICS coding as well. BLS state and regional staff remain responsible for assigning many codes and are instructed to review and validate all automatically assigned codes.
BLS developed OIICS to provide a consistent set of classifications of the circumstances of the characteristics associated with workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. OIICS is used to classify the circumstances of each injury, illness, and fatality case. BLS developed the original OIICS structure with input from data users and states participating in the BLS Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities (IIF) federal/state cooperative programs. The original system was released in December 1992 and approved for use as the American National Standard for Information Management for Occupational Safety and Health in 1995 (ANSI Z16.2—1995). In September 2007, BLS updated OIICS classifications to incorporate various interpretations, improvements, and corrections.
The OIICS revision in September 2010 was the first major revision since this classification system was first developed in 1992. BLS implemented a revised OIICS structure based on input from many stakeholders. In February 2008, BLS issued a Federal Register Notice requesting suggestions for proposed changes to OIICS. In addition, BLS sent out numerous letters and e-mails to stakeholders who use the OIICS to classify injury and illness data. In April 2010, BLS issued a draft of the revised OIICS 2.0 manual to interested parties requesting their comments. The team evaluated the comments received, made revisions, and issued the completed OIICS 2.01 manual in September 2010. Due to substantial differences between OIICS 2.01 and the original OIICS structure, which was used from 1992 to 2010, BLS advises against making comparisons of the case characteristics from 2011 forward with case characteristics of prior years. More information can be found at the OIICS homepage. More information on the changes and process involved in updating the OIICS structure can be found in the article “Updated BLS Occupational Injury and Illness Classification System” and information on using OIICS as a safety and management tool can be found in the article “Using the BLS Occupational Injury and Illness Classification System as a Safety and Health Management Tool.”
SOII and CFOI use five classifications to describe each incident that led to a serious nonfatal injury or illness or a fatal injury:
Exhibit 1 is an illustrative example of how a work-related injury is classified and how CFOI may use OIICS codes to describe an injury incident.
From 1992 to 2002, SOII and CFOI used the 1987 Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system to define industry. View the SIC manual for more information. The SIC system served as the foundation for SOII and CFOI statistics since the inception of each program—1972 and 1992, respectively, and was revised numerous times during its life cycle (most recently in 1987) to account for changes in the composition of the U.S. economy.
The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) was adopted to define industry beginning with the 2003 reference year. Because of the substantial differences between NAICS and the SIC system, the results by industry in 2003 constitute a break in series. NAICS 2002 was used to define industry for reference years 2003–08; NAICS 2007 was used to define industry for reference years 2009–13; NAICS 2012 was adopted to define industry starting with the 2014 reference year. Users are advised against making comparisons between industry data for 2003 forward and the industry data for previous years. Note that the change from NAICS 2007 to NAICS 2012 resulted in a break in series among industry-level estimates from SOII; however, no series break resulted for the CFOI data. More details on the current NAICS classification as it is used in the IIF programs are below. A timeline with the details of which coding structures are used for which year can be found in the history section.
Despite periodic updates to the SIC system, increasing criticism led to the development of a new, more comprehensive system that reflects more recent and rapid economic changes. Many industrial changes were not accounted for under the SIC system, such as recent developments in information services, new forms of healthcare provision, expansion of the services sector, and high-tech manufacturing.
NAICS was developed in cooperation with Canada and Mexico to replace the SIC system, and it was one of the most profound changes for statistical programs focused on measuring economic activities. NAICS uses a process-oriented conceptual framework to group establishments into industries according to the activity in which they are primarily engaged. Establishments using similar raw material inputs, similar capital equipment, and similar labor are classified in the same industry. In other words, establishments that do similar things in similar ways are classified together.
NAICS provides the means to ensure that SOII and CFOI statistics accurately reflect changes in a dynamic U.S. economy. The downside of this change is that these improved statistics resulted in time series breaks due to the significant differences between SIC and NAICS. Every sector of the economy was restructured and redefined under NAICS. A new information sector combined communications, publishing, motion picture and sound recording, and online services, recognizing our information-based economy. NAICS restructured the manufacturing sector to recognize new high-tech industries. A new subsector was devoted to computers and electronics, including reproduction of software. Retail trade was redefined. In addition, eating and drinking places were transferred to a new accommodation and food services sector. The difference between the retail trade and wholesale trade sectors is now based on how each store conducts business. For example, many computer stores were reclassified from wholesale to retail. Nine new service sectors and 250 new service-providing industries were recognized with the adoption of the NAICS in 2003.
NAICS uses a 6-digit hierarchical coding system to classify economic activities into 20 industry sectors—4 sectors are mainly goods-producing sectors and 16 are entirely service-providing sectors. The 6-digit hierarchical structure of NAICS 2012 allowed for the identification of 1,065 industries. NAICS is revised on a 5-year cycle to reflect changes in the economy, resulting in new standards for 2007 and 2012. These changes were incorporated into SOII and CFOI industry data 2 years later, for 2009 and 2014 respectively. These changes resulted in a series break for SOII industry data from 2013 to 2014, and footnotes should be consulted to check for incompatibility in other cases. For additional information regarding differences between NAICS 2002, NAICS 2007, and NAICS 2012, visit the U.S. Census Bureau NAICS Webpage. See the presentation section for more information on the series.
The following list identifies the individual goods-producing and service-providing industry sectors according to NAICS 2012 classifications:
Goods-producing NAICS industry sectors:
Service-providing NAICS sectors:
In addition to these NAICS sectors, SOII and CFOI statistics are tabulated for several additional NAICS aggregations that are unique to BLS, including the following:
Residential construction industries include residential building construction industries (NAICS 2361) as well as additional specialty trade contractors that were added by BLS during the implementation of the NAICS.
These special trade contractors (NAICS 238) have a residential/nonresidential element that is unique to BLS:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics will provide further industry detail in NAICS by adding 19 industries in subsector 238 specialty trade contractors. These additional industries will provide data about residential and nonresidential contractors. Some of the new industries will include residential and nonresidential roofing contractors, and residential and nonresidential electrical contractors.4
The 19 industries are:
From 1992 to 2002, the program used the U.S. Census Bureau (BOC) occupational classification system. Beginning with the 2003 reference year, SOII and CFOI began using the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system to define occupations. Due to the substantial differences between the SOC and BOC systems, the results by occupation in 2003 constitute a break in series. Users are advised against making comparisons between occupation data in 2003 forward and the occupation data for previous years. More information on BOC can be found in the online BOC technical paper. More information on SOC can be found on the SOC homepage. Please note that SOII and CFOI used the 2000 SOC to classify occupation data for years 2003 to 2010 and uses the 2010 SOC for years 2011 forward. More details on the current SOC classification as it is used in the IIF programs are below.
Beginning with the 2011 reference year, CFOI and SOII began using the 2010 SOC system for coding occupations. Before 2011, the 2000 SOC for occupations was used. While the changes to the new structure (SOC 2010) were not extensive, comparisons of SOC 2000 and SOC 2010 occupations should be made with caution. The 2010 SOC system classifies workers at four levels of aggregation:
All occupations are clustered into one of 23 major groups, within which are 97 minor groups, 461 broad occupations, and 840 detailed occupations. Occupations with similar skills or work activities are grouped at each of the four levels of hierarchy to facilitate comparisons. For example, life, physical, and social science occupations (19-0000) is divided into four minor groups: life scientists (19-1000), physical scientists (19-2000), social scientists and related workers (19-3000), and life, physical, and social science technicians (19-4000). Life scientists contains broad occupations such as agriculture and food scientists (19-1010), and biological scientists (19-1020). The broad occupation biological scientists includes detailed occupations such as biochemists and biophysicists (19-1021) and microbiologists (19-1022).
Each item in the hierarchy is designated by a six-digit code. The first two digits of the SOC code represent the major group, the third digit represents the minor group, the fourth and fifth digits represent the broad occupation, and the detailed occupation is represented by the sixth digit. Major group codes end with 0000 (e.g., 33-0000, protective service occupations), minor groups end with 000 (e.g., 33-2000, fire fighting workers), and broad occupations end with 0 (e.g., 33-2020, fire inspectors). (The zeros are not always printed.) All residuals ("other," "miscellaneous," or "all other"), whether at the detailed or broad occupation or minor group level, contain a 9 at the level of the residual. Detailed residual occupations end in 9 (e.g., 33-9199, protective service workers, all other), broad occupations that are minor group residuals end in 90 (e.g., 33-9190, miscellaneous protective service workers), and minor groups that are major group residuals end in 9000 (e.g., 33-9000, other protective service workers):
33-0000 protective service occupations
33-9000 other protective service workers
33-9190 miscellaneous protective service workers
33-9199 protective service workers, all other
Both CFOI and the component of SOII capturing case circumstances and worker characteristics were implemented in 1992, following recommendations of a National Academies of Science review highlighting the need to capture detailed case circumstances and worker characteristics for fatal and nonfatal workplace incidents, respectively. At their inception, each of these series used separate methods to categorize the race or ethnicity of injured or ill workers. For example, SOII categorized Hispanics separately, whereas CFOI categorized Hispanics by race (e.g., Black or White) and also provided a total count of Hispanics. The remaining race and ethnicity categories for both series were:
The classification of workers by race and ethnicity for CFOI and SOII is based on the 1997 Standards for Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity as defined by the Office of Management and Budget.
In 1999, CFOI amended race categories so that Hispanics no longer counted as a race, but solely as an ethnicity. Three additional changes were also incorporated to race and ethnicity categories:
In 2002, SOII incorporated these same race categories. One result of this revision is that individuals may be categorized in more than one race or ethnic group. Race and ethnicity is one of the few data elements that are optional in SOII. This resulted in 37 percent of the cases involving days away from work for which race and ethnicity were not reported in the 2014 SOII.
Describes the activity engaged in by the worker at the time of the fatal injury. More information on worker activity and the coding structure can be found in the online manual.
Indicates the locale, such as, farm, residence, or road construction, where the incident or exposure occurred at the time of the fatal injury. More information on location and the coding structure can be found in the online manual.
This variable indicates whether the decedent was a contracted worker at the time of the incident. In CFOI, a contracted worker is a worker employed by one firm but working at the behest of another firm that exercises overall responsibility for the operations at the site where the decedent was killed. Some additional rules for classifying contracted workers in CFOI:
Contracted worker status can be inferred from available case data if not explicitly stated. If, for example, a security guard employed directly by a security firm is killed while working at a bar, the security guard must have been contracted by the bar or else he or she would not have been present.
Note that this definition of a contracted worker is unique to CFOI and likely differs from how contracted workers (sometimes called contractors) are defined elsewhere. Users should be cautious when comparing CFOI data on contracted workers to other data sources because of these definitional differences.
More information on contracted workers can be found in the article “Fatal occupational injuries involving contractors, 2011.”
This variable indicates the country of birth of the decedent and began being published in 2001. A list of the countries and regions can be found in the online manual.
Beginning in 1999, CFOI began publishing Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) information based on definitions from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). For reference year 2014 forward, CFOI uses the MSA definitions in OMB Bulletin Number 13-01, February 2013. For more information on the definitions used in previous years please see the CFOI definitions page.
CFOI captures whether the worker was killed in an incident where at least one other worker was killed, a multiple-fatality incident, or in an incident where no other worker was killed, a single-fatality incident. Incident type was first collected in 1993. This is done using a linked code and only links decedents in the same reference year. If, for example, there was an explosion at a plant and one worker died in December and another worker was hospitalized but did not die until January, these two cases would not be linked, as the deaths crossed the calendar year.