BLS: On-the-job deaths at Highest Level Since 2007

Originally published by: Safety and Health MagazineDecember 18, 2019

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Editor’s Note: Before one of your employees becomes an unfortunate statistic, take a few minutes to consider FrameSAFE. This comprehensive, bilingual safety program developed by the National Framers Council is based on OSHA 1926 and includes a safety manual template, site-specific fall protection plan template, Toolbox Talks, safety posters and other training materials.

A total of 5,250 workers died as a result of on-the-job injuries in 2018 – a 2% increase from 2017 and the highest number of fatalities since 5,657 were recorded in 2007, according to Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries data released Dec. 17 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics logo

The data also shows that the overall rate of fatal workplace injuries remained unchanged from 2017, steadying at 3.5 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, after falling from 3.6 in 2016. Other highlights:

  • Transportation-related fatalities – which rose slightly to 2,080 from 2,077 in 2017 – accounted for 40% of all fatal work-related injuries.
  • The 615 deaths among African American workers are the most since 1999, while the 961 deaths among Hispanic or Latino workers marks a 6.4% increase from 2017.
  • Fatalities involving independent workers rose slightly to 621 from 613 the year before, and accounted for 11.8% of all fatal work-related injuries.
  • Deaths resulting from contact with objects and equipment increased 13.1% to 786. This figure includes a notable increase in incidents involving caught-in hazards (39.5%) and struck-by falling objects (17.3%).
  • Drivers/sales workers and truck drivers experienced 966 fatal injuries, the most of any occupation and a 15% increase from 2017. Industries with the highest recorded rate of fatal injuries were logging (97.6 per 100,000 FTE) and fishing (77.4).
  • Deaths related to unintentional overdoses from nonmedical drug or alcohol use while at work climbed 12.1% to 305, marking the sixth straight year fatal injuries in this category have increased.

“OSHA will continue to use BLS for enforcement targeting within its jurisdiction to help prevent tragedies,” acting OSHA administrator Loren Sweatt said in a Dec. 17 statement. “Inspections for OSHA were up, and we will work with State Plans so employers and workers can find compliance assistance tools in many forms or call the agency to report unsafe working conditions. Any fatality is one too many.”

In a statement issued Dec. 17, the National Safety Council said, “The data shows we are still not doing enough to protect our workers. Workplace fatalities should never be considered a cost of doing business. Employers need to take a systematic approach to safety that includes having policies, training and risk assessment techniques in place to address major causes of fatalities and injuries.”

The data release is the second of two annual BLS reports. The first, released Nov. 7, highlighted nonfatal injuries and illnesses among private-sector employees.


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