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Priority on Profits to Blame for Texas’ High On-the-Job Fatality Rate

Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Press Contacts:

Dorry Samuels, (508) 277-7997, [email protected]

Priority on Profits to Blame for Texas’ High On-the-Job Fatality Rate

Gov. Rick Perry Incorrectly Blames Nature of Energy Industry for Number of Texas Workers Killed at Work  

Texas Gov. Rick Perry would have us believe that more and stricter regulations do not lead to fewer worker deaths due to unsafe conditions. But California’s relatively strict regulatory climate has succeeded in producing a worker fatality rate that is consistently about half that in the state of Texas, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health said today. Texans’ aversion to regulations costs workers’ lives, according to data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Perry traveled to California last week in an effort to lure California businesses to Texas. In a press conference there, a reporter asked about Texas’ poor record of worker safety. Perry balked and said that the energy industry is just more dangerous than other industries.

The comparison between Texas’ records and California’s is fair because California also has a lot of dangerous work, including in the energy industry.

“Though the energy industry is indeed more dangerous than some other industries, Texas also has a safety culture that appears to prioritize profits above all else,” said Tom O” Connor, executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health. “Widespread disregard for workers’ wellbeing is clearly evidenced in the state’s consistently high rate of on-the-job fatalities.”



  • From 2008 through 2011, 1,839 workers were killed on the job in Texas, compared to 1,560 in California, despite California having a population some 40 percent greater than Texas.
  • If Texas’s worker fatality rate were the same as California’s during this four-year period, some 795 Texas workers who were killed on the job would still be alive.
  • California, like Texas, has a complex, diverse economy with great number of workers employed in some of the most dangerous industries: agriculture, construction, oil/gas exploration and refining, and logging. California also has a huge and diverse foreign-born worker population, which is known to be more vulnerable to workplace injury and death. California also suffered through a grave financial crisis during this period, which reduced its staffing levels and left its OSHA program severely understaffed.
  • Lack of employer compliance with OSHA regulations, not just hazardous work, is responsible for many of these worker deaths in the Lone Star State. A recent analysis by the San Antonio Express found in an investigation of oil field deaths in South Texas that in every case, employers had violated one or more OSHA safety standards.  


The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health will continue to highlight worker fatalities and how to prevent them in ongoing reports in advance of Workers’ Memorial Week of Action, which will take place from April 22-28 this year. Visit to learn more.


The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health is a federation of local and statewide organizations; a private, non-profit coalition of labor unions, health and technical professionals, and others interested in promoting and advocating for worker health and safety.

To learn more about the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, visit: