During the last two decades, incidence rates of occupational accidents have been decreasing in Brazil. Mortality has also decreased, but not as sharply as incidence. Changes in reporting of occupational accidents have been the main argument used to explain such trends. This time-series study covering occupational accidents from 1970 to 1995 clearly shows the link between occupational accidents and social and economical determinants. Comparing 14 Brazilian States, a positive linear regression (r=0.80) was detected between proportion of workers in industrial production and accidents. In the 1980s, Brazil's economic recession led to an increase in unemployment. The decline in industrial jobs - those with a higher risk of accidents ( was accented by the restructuring of production and increased use of computer and robotics technologies in various manufacturing sectors. The result was a heavy shift of the work force from industry to commerce and services - jobs entailing lower risk of accidents. These factors influenced trends in occupational accidents in Brazil during this 25-year period.