Real estate workplace deaths again on the rise

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The number of real estate professionals killed on the job has risen, and while homicides are down some, other causes of death like falls and deaths in traffic accidents are on the rise, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In 2012 (the latest year for which figures are available), there were 50 workplace fatalities in the real estate industry subcategory, which includes landlords, real estate agents and brokers and others who work in brokerage offices, and those who conduct activities related to real estate, such as property managers and appraisers.

The 50 real estate industry workplace injury fatalities identified by the BLS in 2012 were an increase from an upwardly revised 42 such fatalities in 2011.

In 2010, fatalities reached their highest level since at least 2003: 63. Assaults and violent acts accounted for the largest share of deaths, prompting Inman News to to publish a three-part series focusing on personal safety.

The 2012 figure, 50, is a nearly 21 percent drop from that peak, but a 19 percent increase in real estate workplace deaths from 2011. All in all, there were an average of 51 real estate workplace deaths annually in the 10 years between 2003 and 2012.

Fatal occupational injuries in real estate subcategory, 2003-2012

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2003 52
2004 48
2005 39
2006 58
2007 50
2008 56
2009 53
2010 63
2011 42
2012 50

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Of the 50 deaths, the biggest chunk, 20, were from “violence and other injuries from persons or animals” (down from 27 in 2011) including 15 homicides (down from 17 in 2011). Overall, there were an average of 17 real estate homicides per year in the decade between 2003 and 2012.

Fatal occupational injuries due to homicide in real estate subcategory, 2003-2012:

2003 18
2004 17
2005 10
2006 15
2007 16
2008 23
2009 19
2010 23
2011 17
2012 15

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The next biggest number of 2012 real estate workplace deaths, 14, were due to “falls, slips, trips” (more than double from six in 2011). “Transportation incidents,” such as car crashes, were responsible for 10 deaths (up from six in 2011). “Exposure to harmful substances or environments” accounted for four deaths, and one death was caused by “fires and explosions.”

The numbers tell a more nuanced story when broken down by type of real estate professional. As in previous years, landlords are more likely to be fatally injured on the job than real estate agents or brokers, as well as property managers.

Landlords accounted for 25 fatal workplace injuries in 2012, compared with nine among agents and brokers and 16 among property managers. Thirteen landlords died due to violence from people or animals compared with three agents or brokers and four property managers. Of those who died from falls, six were landlords, five were property managers, and three were agents or brokers.

While rare, violence against real estate agents illustrates the dangers that real estate professionals face in showing homes to strangers, holding open houses for sellers, or meeting prospective clients for the first time. Safety experts recommend that agents research prospective clients.

Police in West Des Moines, Iowa, are still investigating one notable 2011 case — the murder of 27-year-old Realtor Ashley Okland at an open house.