The Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) is a cooperative venture in which the operating costs are shared equally between the state and federal governments. The CFOI program uses diverse state, federal, and independent data sources to identify, verify, and describe fatal work injuries. This ensures that counts are as complete and accurate as possible. Each year, states are responsible for data collection, followup, and coding on a timely basis. Collection of the data is continuous, starting on the first day of the calendar year of the reference period and ending in late fall of the following year, allowing ample time for source document collection, followup requests, and coding review. More information on the initial CFOI results and the methodology used can be found in the articles at Fatal work injuries: results from the 1992 national census and The changing character of fatal work injuries.
States obtain information on fatal work injuries from a number of different sources. A list of the types of source documents that may be used in the collection of information can be found below.
All data collected in CFOI are subject to the BLS confidentiality requirements that prevent the disclosure of identifying information. The information that is gathered from our source document providers is used solely for statistical purposes. All BLS employees and the state grant agency partners who work with the CFOI data take an oath of confidentiality and are subject to fines and imprisonment for improperly disclosing information provided by respondents. Confidentiality certification training is required annually.
At BLS, the data are processed and stored on secure servers, with access limited to employees having security clearances. CFOI does have a micro data research file available upon approval of the research proposal and application. As a further precaution, BLS applies certain restrictions to the microdata available on the offsite research files. These include geographical and value restrictions that prevent identification of decedents and associated confidential information. More information on the research file is available in section 6.
Most of the source documents that CFOI uses are considered confidential by their provider. In this context, “confidential” indicates that it was collected under a pledge of confidentiality (meaning that it can be used for statistical purposes only). One of the main reasons CFOI has been able to collect such complete and comprehensive data is the use of these confidential sources. In order to continue to receive these confidential sources, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) must agree to protect the case-level data it receives from them and report those data in accordance with the agreements the Bureau has with those providers.
These source document agreements are established at both the state and national levels. BLS enters into agreements with federal source document providers while our state partners set up agreements with source document providers within their states, typically state vital records departments, coroners, medical examiners, police, and so forth. Many of these providers at both the state and federal levels only make their information available because BLS agrees to use the information for statistical purposes only. CFOI currently collects data in 55 jurisdictions—the 50 states, District of Columbia, New York City, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam. Each jurisdiction has its own regulations with regard to the availability of data. Some jurisdictions have largely public documents, while others have largely confidential documents.
BLS state partners actively search for and request source documents. For the source documents provided to the states by the national BLS office, states are required to be matched to a case on the file, if determined to be an in-scope case, to ensure cases are not missed. There are also two Data Acceptance Programs (DAP) requiring all states report their annual collection practices to BLS to ensure that access to key source documents is continuing and that these documents are being utilized correctly. Overall, state agencies collect more than 20,000 individual source documents each year or about an average of four documents from different sources for each fatal injury. To avoid duplication in the counts, source documents are matched using the decedent’s name and other information (for more information on verifying the data see the calculation section).
Updated figures on the number and type of source documents used in the published CFOI cases are available on the program's web page.