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One in Six Workers Involved in Fatal Accident Tests Positive for Alcohol or Drugs


January 1995

According to a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, drugs, alcohol, or other toxic substances may play a role in the intentional (suicide) or unintentional (accidents) incidents that cause the death of American workers (Willima M. Marine, MD and Tracy Jack, "Analysis of Toxicology Reports from the 1992 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries," Compensation and Working Conditions, Oct. 1994, p. 1-6).

1,355 toxicology reports on deaths in the workplace in 1992 were submitted from 43 states and the District of Columbia. 6,083 deaths in the workplace were reported for 1992 from all states and the District of Columbia.

Reports were examined for the cause of death, demographic characteristics of the victims, and other information. Alcohol levels of 0.04 percent were counted as testing positive.

Alcohol was the most common substance found, followed by cocaine, marijuana, and carbon dioxide. Of those workers with positive toxicology results, most were suicides or involved exposure to harmful substances, fires, or explosions. Most deaths occurred in the fields of agriculture, forestry or fishing, followed by deaths in retail, finance, transportation, and construction.

There was little difference in the rates of positive results between intentional deaths and unintentional deaths. While alcohol positives were more commonly found in victims of intentional deaths (68 percent v. 46 percent), mean alcohol levels were higher for unintentional deaths than intentional deaths (0.113 percent v. 0.084 percent).

[To obtain a copy of this report, contact the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Washington, DC 20212, 202-606-5902.]