Workplace Fatalities Continue to Increase, with Transportation Incidents #1 Cause

December 27, 2017

There were 5,190 workplace fatalities reported in the U.S. in 2016, a seven percent increase over the previous year.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of 2016 Fatal Occupational Injuries, the fatal injury rate increased from 3.4 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers in 2015 to 3.6 in 2016.

It was the third consecutive annual increase and the first time in nearly a decade that the number has surpassed 5,000 according to the National Safety Council, which said it is “very disheartened” by the news.

More workers lost their lives in transportation incidents than any other event in 2016, accounting for about one out of every four fatal injuries. Workplace violence injuries increased by 23 percent, making it the second most common cause of workplace fatality. Two other events with large changes were exposure to harmful substances or environments, which rose 22 percent, and fires and explosions, which declined 27 percent.

The new report also shows the number of overdoses on the job increased by 32 percent in 2016, and the number of fatalities linked to overdoses has increased by at least 25 percent annually since 2012.

Loren Sweatt, deputy assistant secretary for the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), said the increase in fatalities was the biggest since 2008.

“America’s workers deserve better,” Sweatt said in a statement, in which she vowed that OSHA will “work to address these trends through enforcement, compliance assistance, education and training and outreach” and the government will “work with public and private stakeholders to help eradicate the opioid crisis as a deadly and growing workplace issue.

Occupations with increases greater than 10 percent in the number of fatal work injuries in 2016 include food preparation and serving related occupations (64 percent); installation, maintenance, and repair occupations (20 percent); building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations (14 percent); and sales and related occupations (11 percent).

Fatal injuries in the leisure and hospitality sector were up 32 percent (225 to 298) and reached an all-time series high in 2016. This was largely due to a 40-percent increase in fatal injuries in the food services and drinking places industry from 118 to 165.

The logging industry recorded the highest fatal injury rate in 2016, at 135.9 fatalities per 100,000 full-time workers. The fishing industry, airline pilots and roofers had the next highest rates.

Fatal work injuries among protective service occupations increased by 68 fatalities (32 percent) in 2016 to a total of 281. This included an increase of 24 fatalities among police officers, 13 fatalities among first-line supervisors/managers of law enforcement workers, and 23 fatalities among miscellaneous protective service workers, including crossing guards and lifeguards, ski patrol, and other recreational protective service workers. Police officers incurred 51 homicides in 2016, up 50 percent from 34 fatalities in 2015.

Industries reporting declines greater than 10 percent in the number of fatal work injuries in 2016 include healthcare practitioners and technical occupations (19 percent), military occupations (15 percent), and production occupations (14 percent).

There were 36 states that had more fatal workplace injuries in 2016 than 2015, while 13 states and the District of Columbia had fewer; Wyoming had the same number as 2015.

Other statistics from the report:

  • Deaths among workers aged 55 or older totaled 1,848 – a 9.9 percent increase
  • Deaths among black or African-American, non-Hispanics increased 18.6 percent, totaling 587
  • Deaths among Asian, non-Hispanic workers increased 40.4 percent, totaling 160 deaths
  • Homicides increased 19.9 percent now totaling 500 deaths, the highest homicide figure since 2010.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of 2016 Fatal Occupational Injuries

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