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Abstract: Motor vehicle crashes (MVCs) are the leading cause of work-related fatalities in the U.S. Adult seat belt use is the most effective way to save lives and reduce injuries in a crash. While seat belt use has consistently increased since 2000, the U.S. has low belt use compared to other countries. It is a major safety concern for workers who drive as part of their job. Oil and gas extraction industry estimates indicate that over a third of fatally injured workers from 2003 to 2009 were unbelted. Among long-haul truck drivers, survey results show that 14% did not use a seat belt on every trip. Construction workers and occupants of commercial light vehicles also display low rates. This study examines seat belt use among fatally injured workers using Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI)/Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) matched data. Methods: Case matching began with a subset of CFOI cases classified as roadway incidents – crashes occurring on a public highway, street, or road normally used for travel, including the shoulder and surrounding areas.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) developed an algorithm to match 2011-2014 CFOI data to all FARS data. We conducted a descriptive epidemiologic analysis of workers’ seat belt use in the matched dataset by examining seat belt use by demographic characteristics, vehicle type, seating position, and industry of employment. Analysis was restricted to events where seat belt use was known. Results: There were 4,060 work-related fatalities in the matched dataset; 43% of workers used a seat belt and 36% were unbelted. Seat belt use was unknown for 15% of workers and for 6% classified as not applicable (i.e, in a motorcycle, operating equipment, or riding in the cargo area). Among those with known seat belt use status (n=3,216), 54% were belted. By age group, we observed that 43% of those aged 18-24 years were belted. No differences were observed by gender among cases with known seat belt use: 54% of men and 55% of women were using their seat belts. Most (95%) of those wearing seat belts remained inside the vehicle, while 45% of those unbelted were ejected. By seating position, 56% of those in the front seat were using their seat belts but only 25% of those in the back were belted. About two thirds (65%) of passenger car occupants were belted; a close proportion (58%) was observed among large-truck occupants. The agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting industry had the highest proportion of workers not wearing seat belts (73%), while workers in the manufacturing industry had the highest observed rate of seat belt use (69%). Conclusions: This analysis highlights the importance of examining seat belt use by demographic and occupational characteristics to develop interventions aimed at workers who do not use seat belts.

Dr.. Rosa Rodriguez - Acosta -  is a Statistician at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Division of Safety Research. She is also Coordinator of the NIOSH Center for Motor Vehicle Safety. Currently she is working, along with research partners from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in the analysis of CFOI/FARS matched data.



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