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1-7 Accident and Loss Statistics

Accident statistics are one metric to determine the effectiveness of any safety program. However, accident statistics are lagging indicators and are usually more indicative of personal safety rather than process safety.

Several methods may be used to calculate accident and loss statistics. All of these methods must be used carefully, because each method has strengths and weaknesses and no single method is capable of measuring all of the required aspects. The methods most commonly used to measure accident statistics are as follows:

  • Total number of fatalities or injuries/illnesses.

  • Fatality rate, or deaths per person per year

  • Fatal injury rate based on total hours or total workers

  • Incidence rate

All of these measures are lagging indicators, since they are tabulated after an accident has occurred.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA; www.osha.gov) has legal authority over U.S. workplace safety. OSHA is responsible for ensuring that U.S. workers are provided with a safe working environment. Many countries have government organizations similar to OSHA.

All U.S. workplaces are required by law to report to OSHA all occupational deaths, illnesses, and injuries. An injury includes medical treatment (other than first aid), loss of consciousness, restriction of work or motion, or injuries causing a transfer to another job. These accident statistics are tabulated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS; www.bsl.gov) and are made available to the public—albeit usually more than a year after the calendar year the data were collected. Table 1-6 provides sources for accident statistics; please refer to these sources for more updated statistics than presented here.

Table 1-6 Sources of Accident Statistics

United States

  1. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Washington, DC www.bls.gov/iif/

    This is an excellent, free source on occupational accident statistics in the United States.

    Data are typically two years behind.

  2. National Safety Council (NSC), Itasca, IL www.nsc.org

    Injury Facts—an excellent source of information on work and nonwork injuries in the United States.

    The National Safety Council is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing accidents at work and at home.

  3. The 100 Largest Losses 1974—2015, 24th ed., Marsh and McLennen Companies, March 2016

    This provides an excellent analysis of worldwide accidents in the hydrocarbon industry, including a brief description and financial loss for each accident.

United Kingdom

Health and Safety Executive (HSE)


This is the equivalent of OSHA in the United Kingdom.

The total number of fatalities is most commonly used as a lagging indicator, but does not take into account the number of people working in a particular occupation. For instance, many more auto-related fatalities occur in a big state like Texas than in a small state like Vermont.

The total number of injuries/illnesses is also dependent on the number of workers. However, it has an additional problem since it requires a definition of an injury or illness.

The fatality rate, or deaths per person per year, is independent of the number of hours exposed to the hazard and reports only the fatalities expected per person per year. The exposed population may be carefully defined to ensure that it includes only those exposed to the hazard. This approach is useful for performing calculations on the general population. Fatality rate is calculated as follows:

The fatal injury rate is defined in two different ways. The first approach is in terms of the number of fatalities per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers employed. Thus, the worker-based fatal injury rate is calculated using the following equation:

A similar approach can be applied to a general population. This fatal injury rate is defined in terms of 100,000 people and applied to a general, exposed population. It is calculated using the following equation:

A work-related fatal injury rate can be defined in terms of the total hours worked by 100,000 full-time equivalent workers. For 100,000 workers working 40 hours per week and 50 weeks per year, this results in (100,000 workers × 40 hours/week × 50 weeks/year) = 200,000,000 hours. Thus, the hours-based fatal injury rate is defined by the following equation:

Hours-based fatal injury rates (Equation 1-4) are generally considered more applicable than worker-based fatal injury rates (Equation 1-2). Hours-based rates use the total number of employees at work and the total hours each employee works. Worker-based rates will be similar for groups of workers who tend to work full time, but differences will be observed for worker groups who tend to include a high percentage of part-time workers.

The incidence rate is based on the cases per 100 workers. A worker year is assumed to contain 2000 hours (50 work weeks/year × 40 hours/week). The incidence rate, therefore, is based on 200,000 hours of worker exposure to a hazard (100 worker years × 2000 hours/year). The incidence rate is calculated from the number of incidents and the total number of hours worked during the applicable period. The following equation is used to calculate the incidence rate:

The incidence rate is typically used for accidents involving injuries or illnesses, although it was used for fatalities in the past. The hours-based fatal injury rate is commonly used for fatalities, whereas the incidence rate is used for injuries since fatalities occur much less frequently than injuries. Using a different number of hours for these two rates brings both rates within comparable numerical values.

OSHA also uses the incidence rate for illnesses; days away from work (DAW); and days away from work, job restriction, or job transfer (DART). Table 1-7 defines these terms in relation to occupational injuries. There are many other ways to present accident statistics depend-ing on what you wish to achieve. For instance, for airline transportation, the usual method is to report fatalities per million miles traveled.

Table 1-7 U. S. OSHA Definitions for Occupational Injuries




Injuries or illnesses that result in death, regardless of the time between the injury and death or the length of the illness.


Any injury, such as a cut, fracture, sprain, amputation, and so forth, that results from a work-related event or from a single instantaneous exposure in the work environment.


Any abnormal condition or disorder caused by exposure to factors associated with employment, other than those resulting from an instantaneous event or exposure. This includes acute and chronic illnesses or diseases.

Days away from work (DAW)

Cases that result in days away from work (beyond the day of injury or onset of illness). The number of days away from work for these cases is determined according to the number of calendar days (not workdays) that an employee was unable to work, even if the employee was not scheduled to work those days.

Job transfer or restriction

Any case that results only in job transfer or restricted work activity. Workers who continue working after incurring an injury or illness during their regularly scheduled shift but produce fewer goods or services are not considered to be in restricted activity status.

Days away from work, job restriction, or job transfer (DART)

Any case involving days away from work (beyond the day of injury or onset of illness), or days of job restriction or days of job transfer.

Lost time injury (LTI)

The injured worker is unable to perform regular job duties, takes time off for recovery, or is assigned modified work duties while recovering.

Recordable injury

Death, days away from work, restricted work or transfer to another job, medical treatment beyond first aid, or loss of consciousness.

Other recordable cases

Injuries or illnesses that do not result in any days away from work, a job restriction, or restriction. This includes cases involving medical attention.

Source: www.osha.gov.

Table 1-8 provides OSHA statistics on the total number of fatalities, the hours-based fatal injury rates, and the total recordable incidence rates for the United States in 2015, ordered from the highest number of fatalities to lowest. In 2015, a total of 4836 occupational fatalities occurred. The peak number of fatalities was 5840 deaths recorded in 2006; the low was 4551 fatalities in 2009, primarily due to the recession of 2008—fewer workers means fewer fatalities. The total number of fatalities has been increasing slowly over the past few years (4821 in 2014) due to an increase in the number of workers, but likely at a diminished pace owing to improvements in occupational safety programs.

Table 1-8 2015 U.S. Occupational Statistics for Selected Industries, Ranked from Highest to Lowest Number of Fatalities


Total fatalities

Hours-based fatal injury ratea

Total recordable incidence rateb

All Industries




Construction (overall)




Transportation and warehousing




Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting




Truck transportation




Professional and business services








Government (state and local)




Retail trade




Leisure and hospitality




Wholesale trade




Government, federal



Restaurants and other food services




Police and sheriff’s patrol officers




Financial activities












Professional, scientific, and technical services








Taxi drivers and chauffeurs








Fire fighters




Mining (except oil and gas)




Chemical manufacturing




Fishing, hunting, and trapping












Colleges, universities, and professional schools




Plastics and rubber products manufacturing




Oil and gas extraction




Chemical and allied products merchant wholesalers




Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov/iif/.

Several conclusions can be reached from Table 1-8. Construction (overall) has the highest number of fatalities (937), but fishing, hunting, and trapping has the highest hours-based fatal injury rate (54.8). The difference depends on the number of workers employed in each area. Construction has a larger number of workers than fishing, hunting, and trapping, resulting in the total fatalities for construction being higher and the hours-based fatal injury rate being lower. Interestingly, hospitals have the second highest total recordable incidence rate (8.1), followed by agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting (5.7). Table 1-8 also shows that the traditional chemical engineering industries are near the bottom in terms of occu-pational injuries and fatalities. This group includes chemical manufacturing (28 fatalities), plastics and rubber products manufacturing (17 fatalities), oil and gas extraction (6 fatalities), and chemical and allied products merchant wholesalers (3 fatalities). The hours-based fatal injury rates and total recordable incidence rates for these industries are lower than those of many other occupational activities that are commonly considered as safer. For example, colleges, universities, and professional schools had a total of 17 fatalities in 2015. Many specific chemical companies achieve total recordable incidence rates as low as 0.2, compared to the industry average for chemical manufacturing of 2.1.

Table 1-9 provides details on the nature of the fatalities. Clearly, transportation accidents account for the largest number of fatalities in the workplace (2054 fatalities). This is followed by falls, slips, and trips (800 fatalities). With respect to the nature of the fatal injury, most of the injuries are due to multiple traumatic injuries and disorders—occupational fatalities usually involve widespread injury to many areas in the human body. With respect to the worker activity involved with the fatality, transportation accounts for the largest number of fatalities, followed by constructing, repairing, and cleaning and using or operating tools or machinery.

Table 1-9 Details on the Nature of Occupational Fatalities in 2015

Total occupational fatalities for 2015: 4836

Event or exposure

Transportation accidents


Falls, slips, and trips


Contact with objects and equipment


Violence and other injuries by persons or animalsa


Exposure to harmful substances or environments


Fires and explosions


Primary sourceb



Persons, plants, animals, and minerals


Structures and surfaces




Chemicals and chemical products


Parts and materials


Tools, instruments, and equipment


Containers, furniture, and fixtures


Nature of fatal injury

Multiple traumatic injuries and disorders


Other traumatic injuries and disorders


Intracranial injuries


Open wounds


Traumatic injuries to bones, nerves, and spinal cord


Burns and corrosions


Effects of environmental conditions


Traumatic injuries to muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, etc.


Surface wounds and bruises


Worker activity

Vehicular and transportation operations


Constructing, repairing, cleaning


Using or operating tools or machinery


Other activities


Physical activities


Materials handling operations


Protective service operations


Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov/iif/.

Note under the “Primary Source” heading in Table 1-9 that 233 fatalities occurred due to exposure to chemicals and chemical products. However, if you look further into the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, you find that only 5 of these deaths occurred in the chemical manufacturing industry and only 1 in operations of chemical and allied products merchant wholesalers. One can easily conclude that few fatalities in the chemical industry are due to chemical exposures; instead, most of the chemical fatalities occur in industries that are not considered chemical in nature.

Table 1-10 provides more details on fatalities in the chemical industry. Surprisingly, retail gasoline stations account for the largest number of fatalities (39 fatalities—due mostly to robberies). Within chemical manufacturing, fertilizer manufacturing (6 fatalities) and basic chemical manufacturing (5 fatalities) account for the largest number of fatalities. Petroleum refineries had 4 fatalities in 2015, while crude petroleum and natural gas extraction had 6 fatalities.

Table 1-10 2015 Fatal Occupational Injuries Related to the U.S. Chemical Industry

Chemical industry


Gasoline Stations (Retail)


Chemical Manufacturing


Fertilizer manufacturing


Basic chemical manufacturing


Soap, cleaning compound, and toilet prep manufacturing


Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing


Paint, coating, and adhesive manufacturing


Industrial gas manufacturing


All other chemical manufacturing


Plastics Manufacturing


Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing


Asphalt paving mixture and block manufacturing


Petroleum refineries


Asphalt shingle and coating materials manufacturing


Petroleum and Petroleum Products Merchant Wholesalers


Crude Petroleum and Natural Gas Extraction


Rubber Product Manufacturing


Chemical and Allied Products Merchant Wholesalers


Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov/iif/.

The Marsh and McLennan companies annually publish a report entitled 100 Largest Losses in the Hydrocarbon Industry.5 The most recent report tabulates losses from 1974 to 2015 and is based only on the property value losses from the ground up. It does not include the financial losses due to fatalities/injuries, environmental factors, lawsuits, fines, or business interruption—these additional losses could easily multiply the losses by many times. Table 1-11 shows the percentage of losses by industry sector and Table 1-12 shows the total property damage losses by event type. Reviewing these data, the first conclusion is that these losses are huge—totaling more than $33 billion, an amount that does not include losses to human life and environmental losses. Second, 87% of the losses occurred in upstream oil and gas production, refining, and petrochemicals. Finally, $25 billion in losses—75% of the total dollar losses—are from explosions and fires.

Table 1-11 Percentage of Property Damage by Industry Sector

Industry sector

Percentage of total losses

Upstream production of oil and gas






Gas processing


Terminals and distribution


Source: The 100 Largest Losses 1974–2015, 24th ed. (New York, NY: Marsh and McLennan Companies, March 2016), p. 10.

Table 1-12 Property Damage Values Based on Event Type

Event type

Property damage ($U.S. billions, adjusted to December 2015 $)

















Mechanical damage




Source: The 100 Largest Losses 1974–2015, 24th ed. (New York, NY: Marsh and McLennan Companies, March 2016), p. 10.

Table 1-13 is a list of non-occupational fatalities in the United States for the year 2014 ranked from the highest number of fatalities to lowest. Also shown is the deaths per 100,000 people, as defined by Equation 1-3. In 2014, there were 136,053 non-occupational fatalities due to unintended injuries—compared to 4836 occupational fatalities. Poisoning accounted for the highest number of fatalities, although this includes 38,718 poisoning deaths by drug overdose. This alarmingly large number of fatalities is dramatically increasing each year. Motor vehicle deaths numbered 35,398—a total that has been increasing slowly for the past few years. In 1972, the number of motor vehicle fatalities reached a peak of 56,278. In 2014, 58 people died from electrocution by exposure to electric transmission lines, while 25 died from lightning.

Table 1-13 Non-Occupational Fatalities in the United States Due to Unintentional Injuries, 2014

Injury class

Total fatalities

Deaths per 100,000 people

All deaths (occupational and non-occupational)






Motor vehicle












Fires, flames, and smoke



Exposure to excessive natural cold



Firearm discharge



Exposure to excessive natural heat


Exposure to electric transmission lines






Source: Injury Facts (Itasca, IL: National Safety Council, Itasca, IL, 2015), www.nsc.org.

Comparing Table 1-13 with Table 1-8 shows that the total number of fatalities in the workplace is much lower than the non-occupational fatalities in the general population: The number of workplace fatalities is comparable to the number of deaths by choking. Choking, falls, motor vehicle deaths, and poisonings all exceed the total number of workplace fatalities by a large margin. Also note that the general population is much larger than the total number of workers in the general population. Nevertheless, this comparison does provide an indication of the magnitude of workplace deaths compared to non-occupational deaths.

In summary, accident statistics show that:

  • The chemical industry has much lower fatalities and hours-based fatal injury rates than many other occupational activities that are commonly considered to be safer.

  • The numbers of transportation and motor vehicle fatalities are high in both occupational and non-occupational environments.

  • Chemical industry incidents, although infrequent, can result in huge property losses.

The chemical industry includes chemical plants, refineries, and other industrial sites using chemicals. Despite the relatively small number of fatalities that occur in the chemical industry, the potential always exists for a major incident—though such an event remains unlikely. Clearly, no unintended injury or fatality is acceptable in the workplace or elsewhere. All safety programs must drive toward zero injuries.

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