Several mortality studies of the chemical industry have examined fatal injuries, but most of these studies have been of employees of large chemical firms and have not separated work-related from non-work-related injuries. We examined all U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigation files in 1984-89 in 47 U.S. states of fatal injuries in the chemical industry, Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) 2800–2899. OSHA investigates all reported deaths over which it has jurisdiction; this includes most causes of work-related death except for homicide and motor vehicle crashes. For the 6 year period, there were 234 fatalities in the chemical industry, for a work-related fatality rate of 0.55 per 10,000 workers/year. The largest category of deaths was from explosions, with 99 (42%), followed by fire & burns, with 32 (14%), poisoning, with 31 (13%), and falls, with 18 (8%). Of the 99 deaths from explosions, 45 (45%) involved manufacture or handling of fireworks or other explosives. The fatality rate at firms with fewer than 50 employees was more than twice that of larger firms (P < 0.05) and employees at small firms were less likely to have been covered by a union contract (P < 0.05). OSHA issued citations for safety violations in 73% of the deaths. While regulatory authorities and the media often focus attention on large, multinational chemical corporations, the highest worker fatality rates are found at the smallest chemical firms.