NPR logo Workplace Suicides Rose 28% In 2008

Economy

Workplace Suicides Rose 28% In 2008

Here's another distressing impact of the economic recession. Workplace suicides rose 28 percent in 2008 from the year before even though 10 percent fewer workers died in workplace accidents than in the prior year, the U.S. Labor Department reports.

Agency economists blamed the economic downturn for the decline in the rate of fatal accidents, with the crash in housing leading to the rate of deadly injuries to construction workers dropping by double the rate for workers generally; it was 20 percent lower.

Still, the rise in the suicide rate, likely also attributable to the stresses of lay-offs, reduced work hours and other economic fall out, was troubling. As was the increased rate of fatal work injuries among 16 and 17 year-old workers. There were 23 in 2008. That increase was slight, less than or equal to a 0.5 percent rise over 2007, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The data came from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries for 2008.

Responding to the new data, Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis said in a statement:

"With every one of these fatalities, the lives of a worker's family members were shattered and forever changed. We can't forget that fact.

"While the decrease in the number of fatal work injuries represents change in the right direction, it does not lessen the need for strong enforcement to ensure that safety is a top priority in every workplace. In fact, today's report prompts us to step up our vigilance, particularly as the economy regains momentum.

"Working with both employers and employees, the Department of Labor will not be satisfied until there are no workplace deaths due to failure to comply with safety rules."