Alaska still leads nation in rate of worker deaths

Posted: Thursday, July 15, 2004

ANCHORAGE (AP) Alaska led the nation in the rate of worker deaths in 2002, but the number of on-the-job fatalities has been dropping in recent years, according to state labor economists.

In 2002, the latest numbers available, 12.8 out of every 100,000 Alaska workers died on the job, according to the Alaska Economic Trends, a publication of the state Department of Labor.

The national average for that same period was four deaths per 100,000 workers.

The state reported 42 workplace fatalities in 2002.

From 1992 through 1996, Alaska averaged about 72 worker deaths. From 1997 through 2002, the average was 49.

Alaska's workplace fatality rate is falling faster than in most other states, wrote authors Kevin Virden, a research analyst, and Dean Rasmussen, an economist with the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Transportation fatalities were the most common cause of death. Eighteen people died on the water, eight in the air and three on the highway.

Economists said commercial fishing continues to be one of the most hazardous industries in Alaska, but credited the Commercial Fishing Industry Vessel Safety Act with a decline in the number of fishing fatalities.

There have been 203 commercial fishing deaths in the state since 1992.

The eight air transportation deaths was the lowest number since the fatality census began.

Of the 42 deaths reported in Alaska in 2002, 41 were male. Seventy percent were between the ages of 25 and 54.

Nationally, 5,524 workers died on the job in 2002, a 6.6 percent decrease from 2001, when 5,915 workers were killed.

The number does not represent the 2,886 workers who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

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