Occupational Fatality Risks in the United States and the United Kingdom

Published in: American Journal of Industrial Medicine, v. 54, no. 1, Jan. 2014, p. 4-14

Posted on RAND.org on December 10, 2013

by John Mendeloff, Laura Staetsky

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BACKGROUND: There are very few careful studies of differences in occupational fatality rates across countries, much less studies that try to account for those differences. METHODS: We compare the rate of work injury fatalities (excluding deaths due to highway motor vehicle crashes and those due to violence) identified by the US Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in recent years with the number reported to the Health and Safety Executive in the United Kingdom (UK) and by other European Union (EU) members through Eurostat. RESULTS: In 2010, the fatality rate in the UK was about 1/3 the rate in the US. In construction the rate was about 1/4 the US rate, a difference that had grown substantially since the 1990s. Several other EU members had rates almost as low as the UK rate. Across EU countries, lower rates were associated with high-level management attention to safety issues and to in-house preparation of "risk assessments." CONCLUSIONS: Although work fatality rates have declined in the US, fatality rates are much lower and have declined faster in recent years in the UK. Efforts to find out the reasons for the much better UK outcomes could be productive.

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