Surveillance of Traffic Incident Management- Related Occupational Fatalities in Kentucky, 2005–2016

Objective: Traffic incidents occurring on roadways require the coordinated effort of multiple responder and recovery entities including communications, law enforcement, fire and rescue, emergency medical services, hazardous materials, transportation agencies, and towing and recovery. The objectives of this study were to 1) identify and characterize transportation incident management (TIM) – related occupational fatalities; 2) assess concordance of surveillance data sources in identifying TIM occupations, driver vs. pedestrian status, and occupational fatality incident location; and 3) determine and compare U.S. occupational fatality rates for TIM industries.

Methods: The Kentucky Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) program analyzed 2005–2016 TIM occupational fatality data using multiple data sources: death certificate data, Collision Report Analysis for Safer Highways (CRASH) data, and media reports, among others. Literal text analysis was performed on FACE data, and a multiple linear regression model and SAS proc sgpanel were used to estimate and visualize the U.S. TIM occupational mortality trend lines and confidence bounds.

Results: There were 29 TIM fatalities from years 2005- 2015 in Kentucky; 41% of decedents were in the police protection occupation, and 21% each were in the fire protection and motor vehicle towing industries. Over one-half of the TIM decedents were performing work activities as pedestrians when they died. Media reports identified the majority of the occupational fatalities as TIM-related (28 of 29 TIM- related deaths); the use of death certificates as the sole surveillance data source only identified 17 of the 29 deaths as TIM related, and the use of CRASH data only identified 4 of the 29 deaths as TIM-related. Injury scenario text analysis showed law enforcement vehicle pursuit, towing and recovery vehicle loading, and disabled vehicle response were particular high risk activities that lead to TIM deaths. Using U.S. data, the motor vehicle towing industry had a significantly higher risk for occupational mortality compared to the fire protection and police protection industries.

Conclusions: Multiple data sources are needed to comprehensively identify TIM fatalities and to examine the circumstances surrounding TIM fatalities, since no one data source in itself was adequate and undercounted the total number of TIM fatalities. The motor vehicle towing industry, in particular, is at elevated risk for occupational mortality, and targeted mandatory TIM training for the motor vehicle towing industry should be considered. Also, enhanced law enforcement roadside safety training during vehicle pursuit and apprehension of suspects is recommended.