October 26, 1999
Toxicology reports can provide some insights into fatal occupational injuries. However, the lack of uniformity across States in reporting toxicology results limits the usefulness of the data.
Thirty-two States gathered toxicology reports for 1,899 fatalities in 1993 and 23 States did so for 1,242 fatalities in 1994. There were 277 positive toxicology reports in 1993 and 339 in 1994. This meant that 14.6 percent of reviewed toxicology reports were positive in 1993 and 27.3 percent were positive in 1994. Over the two-year period, a positive toxicology report was submitted for about 5 percent of total fatal work injuries.
Alcohol was the most common substance found in deceased individuals with positive toxicology reports. In 1993, 47 percent of the positive toxicology cases indicated the presence of alcohol, compared to 44 percent in 1994.
There are a number of limitations to these data on toxicology. As seen above, not all States provide toxicology data. Also, there is a lack of uniformity among jurisdictions in drug and alcohol testing. Among other limitations is that toxicology reports are collected only for deceased workers, and not for coworkers or other individuals whose actions may have contributed to the fatal incident.
Data on workplace fatalities are from the BLS Safety and Health Statistics Program. Positive toxicology reports indicate positive readings for alcohol or one or more other drugs, such as cocaine, opiates, THC, amphetamines, barbiturates, or others. To learn more about workplace fatalities and toxicology reports, see "Analysis of Toxicology Reports from the 1993-94 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries" (PDF 46K), by Michael Greenberg, Richard Hamilton, and Guy Toscano, Compensation and Working Conditions, Fall 1999.