July 2014,
Vol. 51 No. 7

PDF Version

Explaining State-to-State Differences in Fatal Occupational Injury Rates

Related Tables and Figure

In 2012, Wyoming had 35 fatal occupational injuries, or 12.2 fatalities per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers (BLS, 2014). This was the second highest rate of fatal occupational injuries of the 50 states. Table 1 shows the 50 states and the District of Columbia ranked by their 2012 fatal injury rates. However, state-to-state comparisons of fatal injury rates can be problematic. States can have dramatically different mixes of industries. For example, leisure & hospitality is important in Hawaii, mining is dominant in Wyoming, and the federal government has a large presence in the District of Columbia.

Table 1

From national data, researchers know that certain industries are more dangerous than others. At the sector level, the industries with the highest rates of fatal occupational injuries in 2012 were production agriculture (22.8 fatalities per 100,000 workers) and mining (15.9 fatalities per 100,000 workers; BLS 2014). When the data are viewed at a more detailed level, the most dangerous industries were fishing, hunting & trapping (106.1 fatalities per 100,000 workers), logging (71.8 fatalities per 100,000 workers), and truck transportation (25.6 fatalities per 100,000 workers). Since employment data at the detailed level for these industries were not available for all 50 states, the broader sectors of production agriculture and mining were used for this analysis. The safest industries, in terms of occupational fatalities were hospitals (0.3 fatalities per 100,000 workers), finance & insurance (0.3 fatalities per 100,000 workers), and professional, scientific, & technical services (0.6 fatalities per 100,000 workers).

In an effort to understand the role that industry mix plays in state occupational fatality rates, a linear regression model was developed. The dependent variable was the occupational fatality rate. As seen in Table 1, this rate ranged from 1.4 in Massachusetts to 17.7 in North Dakota. The national average rate was 3.4.

Table 2

Since analysts know that certain industries are more dangerous than others, and that the importance of these industries varies greatly across states, an independent variable was created. Using Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) employment data for 2012, analysts summed production agriculture employment and mining employment and divided this figure by total employment. This percentage is shown in Table 2. Wyoming had the highest percentage of employment in these two sectors (11.6%) and North Dakota was second at 10.8%. The District of Columbia was last with 0.0%. Mining employment was nondisclosable in Delaware and Maine, and in those cases, the value for agricultural employment was used.


The Figure shows a scatterplot of states. The vertical axis is the occupational fatality rate and the horizontal axis is the percentage of total employment in farms and mining. The trend line is included and shows a clear positive slope, suggesting that at the state level, the fatality rate and the percentage of employment in farms and mining are positively correlated.

Table 3

Regression results (see Table 3) show that this one independent variable explains nearly three-quarters (adjusted R-squared=0.72) of the variation in fatal occupational injury rates across states. The regression coefficient of 0.90 suggests that a one percentage point increase (or decrease) in the proportion of employment found in farming and mining will be associated with an increase (or decrease) of 0.90 fatal occupational injuries per 100,000 workers.

In summary, nearly three-fourths of the difference in state fatal occupational injury rates can be explained by the proportion of total employment in each state that is found in production agriculture and mining. At the national level, these are the most dangerous sectors and they have a clear influence on state fatality rates. States that have a high percentage of employment in production agriculture and mining may have other similarities, and would probably benefit from working together to address workplace safety issues.


Bureau of Economic Analysis. (2014). SA25N Total full-time and part-time employment by NAICS industry. Retrieved April 28, 2014 from http://tinyurl.com/legd8r7

Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2014). Fatal occupational injuries, total hours worked, and rates of fatal occupational injuries by selected worker characteristics, occupations, and industries, civilian workers, 2012. Retrieved April 29, 2014 from http://stats.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/cfoi_rates_2012hb.pdf