Some jobs are just more dangerous than others. The next time you see someone driving a Sysco (NYSE:SYY) truck on the highway or a house painter stretching on her ladder to apply a second coat of Sherwin-Williams (NYSE:SHW) paint, pause briefly to reflect on the riskiness of certain professions and industries.

Courtesy of the nice folks at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), here are some statistics on fatal occupational injuries in 2002:

  • 2002 saw only 5,524 fatal work injuries (4.0 per 100,000 workers), the lowest figure ever recorded since the BLS commenced its fatality census in 1992.

  • The most common fatal workplace event was a highway accident, which caused about 25% of the deaths.

  • Workplace homicides were down roughly 5% in 2002 over 2001 (609 vs. 643) and down 44% from 1994's high water mark of 1,080. Workplace suicides also declined in 2002.

  • 714 people died at work from falls (such as from ladders or nonmoving vehicles).

  • Deaths due to exposure to harmful substances or environments rose 8% in 2002. This category is fairly broad, including heat stroke and electrocutions.

  • The industry with the highest fatal accident numbers was construction, while mining had the highest fatal accident rate (23.5 per 100,000 workers). Others in the top group were agriculture/forestry/fishing and transportation/public utilities.

  • The highest number of fatal work injuries by occupation in 2002 happened to operators, fabricators, and laborers (including construction workers). The total, 1,895, represents about a third of all fatal work injuries, though the number has been declining. Fatalities also declined among machine operators, assemblers, and inspectors. One-fifth of the total injuries happened to precision production, craft, and repair workers. Among construction workers, those with increased fatalities were roofers, electricians, brick masons, and painters.

  • The occupation that reported the most fatal injuries was truck drivers, with 808 fatal work injuries.

Foolish investors can heave a sigh of relief that in general, the CEOs leading the fine companies we invest in don't appear to be in a greatly endangered occupation. Still, great companies don't become and remain great solely due to CEOs. If the more dangerous industries could somehow make their operations safer, there might be win-win results: more living employees, coupled with less turnover, less training, and higher morale.

For much more economic and labor-related information than you could ever hope to digest, visit the BLS website.

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