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Fewer Deaths On The Job Last Year

Working got less deadly last year, according to the government's annual tally of workplace deaths, released Wednesday.

Nationally, 5,524 workers died on the job in 2002 - a significant decrease from the 5,915 who died in 2001, a number that did not include those killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

That decline extended a downward trend since 1997, when 6,238 workers died. Workplace homicides also declined, down to 609 last year from a 1994 peak of 1,080.

The numbers declined even among Hispanics, who are more likely to work in riskier farm, factory and construction jobs. Hispanic workers still died at a higher rate than either whites or blacks.

The numbers were compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Federal officials track rates so they can compare various sectors of the workforce.

Overall death rates fell from 4.3 per 100,000 workers in 2001 to 4 workers last year. Blacks were the safest at work: They died at a rate of 3.5 per 100,000 workers, down from 3.8 in 2001. White death rates declined from to 3.9 per 100,000 workers from 4.2 in 2001.

Farming of crops was the most dangerous occupation, with 338 deaths in 2002 - a rate of 37 deaths out of every 100,000 workers. Next most dangerous was mining, with 23.5 deaths per 100,000, a total of 121 deaths last year. Among the various types of mining, coal mining had the highest death rate.

Third most deadly was the umbrella category of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing, with 789 fatal injuries, a rate of nearly 23 deaths per 100,000 workers.

Following those three industries in the rate of deaths on the job were: Trucking and warehousing; Manufacturing of lumber and wood products; Agricultural services; Agricultural production - livestock; Construction; Transportation of passengers; Auto services including repair and parking; Wholesalers; Manufacturing of food products; Federal workers, including military personnel on duty in the U.S.; Local government workers, including police; Retail workers; Restaurants and bars; and service workers.

The rate for Hispanics tumbled from 6 per 100,000 workers to 5 last year, though the number of deaths among foreign-born Hispanics increased.

The decline in Hispanic deaths was especially encouraging to federal officials, because those numbers had been steadily increasing since the mid-1990s.

Labor Secretary Elaine Chao credited the government's efforts to reach Spanish-speaking workers. Those efforts include a Spanish-language Web site and the hiring of more Spanish-speaking workers at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Large states including California, Texas and Pennsylvania saw the number of deaths decline between 2001 and 2002; several smaller states, including Oregon, Arkansas and Nebraska, saw their numbers increase.

Wondering how things stack up in your line of work? The government's numbers are online in further detail, at

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