Driving a truck was the most hazardous occupation in the United States last year, according to the government's latest workplace fatality census, which also said highway accidents were the leading cause of deaths of workers in all lines of work.
More truck drivers were fatally injured on the job, 852, than workers in any other single occupation, the Labor Department said, although the fatal injuries among truck drivers declined 5 percent in 2000.
That trend bolsters statistics showing that truck accidents per million miles traveled have declined in each of the past three years, said Duane Acklie, chairman of the American Truckers Association.
"ATA members have worked hard to improve safety on our highways," Acklie said last month in testimony to the House Highways and Transit Subcommittee. The association is not worried that truckers' safety record will be blemished by unsafe trucks from Mexico operating in the United States under provisions of the North America Free Trade Agreement, Acklie told the panel.
"NAFTA's trucking provisions require all foreign carriers operating in the United States to abide by U.S. standards and regulations. We support that position 100 percent," Acklie said.
Overall, the number of workers killed on the job last year dropped about 2 percent even though employment was up, the census said.
Construction was the most deadly industry, with 1,154 deaths. That was down about 3 percent from 1999, the first decline since 1996. Transportation was the second-most deadly industry, with 957 deaths, followed by services (768), agriculture (720), manufacturing (668), retailing (594) and government (571).
After truckers, those in the riskiest occupations work as farmers (476 deaths last year), salesmen (386), laborers (178), law-enforcers (142) and pilots (138), the census said.
Homicides Post First Gain in 6 Years
On-the-job murder gets more attention that other workplace fatalities, such as alleged December killing of seven workers in a suburban Boston Internet company by a colleague distraught over over the IRS' plans to garnish his wages.
Workplace homicides increased for the first time in six years, up 4 percent from 651 to 677. Still, the number of workplace homicides is down 37 percent from 1994.
Media exposure of the most dramatic violence obscures the fact that the majority of workplace assaults include slapping or pushing, experts said.
Taxi drivers and chauffeurs are most likely to be murdered on the job, according to a national workplace study released last fall.
The report, commissioned by the Postal Service after several highly publicized shootings by disturbed postal workers, found that Postal Service employees are no more likely to "go postal" than are other American workers.
The researchers found that homicide rates at postal facilities were lower than in other workplaces. The highest rate of 2.1 homicides per 100,000 workers was in retail trade, which includes convenience stores, frequent targets of armed robbers. The next highest rate of l.66 was in public administration, which includes police officers. The homicide rate for postal workers was .26 per 100,000.