Workplace fatalities down, but workplace suicides up, in 2008

Sam Hananel, writing for the Associated Press, reports on U.S. Department of Labor statistics indicating that overall workplace fatalities declined in 2008, but that workplace suicides reached an all-time high:

Workplace suicides surged 28 percent last year, the Labor Department said Thursday, as anxious workers dealt with a struggling economy and watched colleagues depart in a rash of layoffs.

…The 5,071 workplace fatalities recorded in 2008 was the lowest number since the agency began tracking the data in 1992. That number includes 251 suicides, the highest number since official reporting began.

Labor officials did not seek to explain the sudden rise in workplace suicides. A BLS spokesman said the agency plans to research it more extensively.

I’m glad that the Bureau of Labor Statistics plans to research this development.  I hope the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and state-level workplace safety agencies will get on board as well.  However, given that we spent the second half of 2008 watching our economy unravel and retirement savings implode, we probably don’t need extensive studies by industrial psychologists to figure out what happened.  Nonetheless, it would be useful to document the cause and effect, lest anyone doubt what last year’s economic disaster did to individual psyches.

Here’s a link to the full story:

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