Accidents related to boilers and unfired pressure vessels increased 24 percent last year over 1999 statistics, according to the National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors.

Almost 90 percent of last year's reported incidents were the result of human error. For example, by far the two leading causes of steam and hot water boilers were attributed to "operator error or poor maintenance" or "low-water condition. In fact, for the third year in a row, "operator error or poor maintenance" remains the leading cause of boiler accidents, with a total of 1,011 incidents. The same category also has been the leading cause of unfired pressure vessel accidents for the ninth year in a row, with incidents totaling 169.

On a brighter note, last year was the safest period on record, with an 80 percent decrease in the total number of injuries reported. The number of fatalities declined 33 percent, with 14 deaths occurring last year. However, 1999 was the most dangerous year on record.

The report was compiled for data submitted by the organization's jurisdictional authorities and by insurance agencies.