June 2014

Comparing fatal work injuries in the United States and the European Union


Member States provide their occupational safety and health data to Eurostat no later than 18 months after the end of the reference year. Because each Member State gathers its data independently, the aggregate data for the European Union include some variation from one country to another. For example, the United Kingdom and Ireland do not supply data on road accidents. In addition, the ESAW data used in this article do not include data from Greece. With the 2011 adoption of a Commission Regulation on ESAW—a regulation that came into effect in 2013—these problems of comparability and lack of information will be gradually resolved.4

Data comparability adjustments

BLS used the available data to identify additional differences in the data sources and adjust the U.S. data to make them comparable to the EU data. The adjustments included the following:

  • Excluding from the U.S. data fatal work injuries that occurred more than 1 year after the precipitating event or exposure. The ESAW data include only deaths that occurred within 1 year of the reference year. By contrast, the CFOI program includes all fatal injuries that meet the definitions of work relationship and are attributable to a work-related event or exposure, regardless of the amount of time between that event or exposure and the worker’s death. Although most fatalities occur instantly or within a few days of the event or exposure, the CFOI does include a small number of cases in which the death occurs months or years later.
  • Excluding suicides from the U.S. data. CFOI data include workplace suicides, whereas EU data do not.

In addition, BLS limited the comparison to private-sector wage and salary workers, thus excluding public-sector workers and the self-employed. Also, the comparison is for the United States as a whole and the European Union as a whole and does not include information on individual U.S. states or individual EU Member States.

The fatality data in this article are presented for the so-called main NACE branches, which are industry aggregates used by the European Union in accordance with the Statistical Classification of Economic Activities in the European Community, an industrial classification system commonly referred to as NACE.5 Because the U.S. data are classified on the basis of the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), BLS staff reclassified the U.S. data with the use of a NACE–NAICS crosswalk and supplemental material prepared by Eurostat.6 In cases with more than one NACE code for a given NAICS code, the supplemental material helped BLS match the descriptions of the industry of interest to an appropriate NACE code. Table 1 presents the main industry branches used in this comparison.7

Table 1. NACE industry branches used in the U.S.–EU comparison of fatal work injuries, and associated NAICS industries
NACE main industry codeNACE main industry titleNACE codesNAICS descriptionNAICS codes


Agriculture, forestry and fishing01–03Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting11




Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply35Utilities2211–2212, 22132


Water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities36–39Utilities22131, 562




Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles45–47Wholesale trade, retail trade42, 44–45


Transportation and storage49–53Transportation and warehousing48–49


Accommodation and food service activities55–56Accommodation and food services72


Information and communication58–63Information51


Financial and insurance activities64–66Finance and insurance52


Real estate activities68Real estate and rental and leasing53


Professional, scientific and technical activities69–75Professional, scientific, and technical services; management of companies and enterprises54, 55


Administrative and support service activities77–82Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services561

Source: NACE–NAICS crosswalk.

Comparison of fatality counts and rates

Number of fatal occupational injuries. In 2010, the total number of fatal work injuries in the United States, as reported by the CFOI, was 4,690. After BLS implemented the data comparability adjustments described in the previous section, the number of fatalities dropped to 2,910, or 62 percent of the original count. About 60 percent of the cases excluded from the original count were self-employed workers; public-sector fatalities and suicides accounted for most of the remaining exclusions.

The comparisons for this study are limited to the main industry branches. The total number of fatal work injuries in these branches was 2,530 for the United States and 3,353 for the European Union. Table 2 shows the count of U.S. and EU fatalities, by NACE code. Notable differences in the data include (1) 19.3 percent of cases occurring in the manufacturing industry in the European Union, compared with 14.9 percent of cases in the United States, and (2) 1.4 percent of cases occurring in the “accommodation and food service activities” industry in the European Union, compared with 4.4 percent of cases in the United States.


4 Commission Regulation (EU) No 349/2011 of 11 April 2011 implementing Regulation (EC) No 1338/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council on Community statistics on public health and health and safety at work, as regards statistics on accidents at work,

5 NACE stands for Nomenclature statistique des activités économiques dans la Communauté européenne.

6 The NACE–NAICS crosswalk used to reclassify U.S. fatal work injuries is available at

7 The comparisons of fatal work injuries exclude the following NACE branches: B (Mining and quarrying), O (Public administration and defence; compulsory social security), P (Education), R (Arts, entertainment and recreation), Q (Human health and social work activities), S (Other service activities), T (Activities of households as employers), and U (Activities of extraterritorial organisations).

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About the Author

William J. Wiatrowski

William J. Wiatrowski is an economist in the Office of Compensation and Working Conditions, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Jill A. Janocha

Jill A. Janocha is an economist in the Office of Compensation and Working Conditions, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.