The Bureau of Labor Statistics today released its 2017 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries — and it contained good news and bad news.
The good news is that workplace fatalities fell slightly, less than 1% last year from 5,190 fatal injuries reported in 2016 to 5,147 last year. The fatality rate also declined slightly from 3.6 to 3.5 deaths per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers.
That bad news is that still means more than 14 workers are killed on the job every day in this country (in addition to the roughly 135 who die each day from diseases related to work like silicosis, black lung and asbestos-related disease.)
According to the AFL-CIO’s Peg Seminario,
Today’s sobering report comes at a time when the number of Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors is at the lowest point in decades and the Mine Safety and Health Administration inspection force has dwindled.
Instead of increasing life-saving measures aimed at protecting working people at their workplaces, the Trump administration is rolling back existing safety and health rules and has failed to move forward on any new safety and health protections.
Most of these job deaths were preventable, caused by well-recognized hazards.
The other troubling parts of today’s report were:
- The number of workers killed in falls climbed to their highest level in the 26-year history of the BLS survey, accounting for 887, or 17 percent of all worker deaths.
- Workplace deaths involving confined spaces rose 15 percent to 166 in 2017 from 144 in 2016.
- The number of older workers killed on the job — 65 and older — reached a new record. Fifteen percent of the fatally-injured workers in 2017 were age 65 or over. In 1992, the first year CFOI published national data, that figure was 8 percent.
- 258 farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers were killed in 2017 and almost two-thirds of those were age 65. Forty-eight were over 80 years old.
- The number of workplace deaths among Hispanic or Latino workers rose 2.7% to 903 in 2017, after falling 3% last year.
- Workplace violence deaths were down last year, but violence-related deaths remain the 3rd leading cause of death in the workplace.
- Fatalities in health care and social services rose from 117 to 146, a 25% increase.
- Workplace fatalities in the private mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction industry increased 26 percent to 112 in 2017. Fatalities in the industry had reached an all time low in 2016. Over 70 percent of these fatalities were incurred by workers in the oil and gas extraction industries.
- Alaska and North Dakota had the highest fatality rates. North Dakota’s rose. The number of deaths in North Dakota rose 36% last year after dropping 40% last year.
- Deaths from unintentional overdoses due to non-medical drugs or alcohol while at work increased 25 percent. 272 workers died on the job last year from accidental overdoses, a staggering 318 percent increase since 2012 when only 65 unintentional overdose deaths were reported. This was the fifth consecutive year that unintentional workplace overdose deaths increased by at least 25 percent.
Other good news includes
- Crane-related workplace fatalities fell to their lowest level ever, possibly due to OSHA’s release of its Cranes and Derricks standard several years ago.
- The number of workers killed getting caught in running equipment or machinery declined 26.2%. to 76 deaths.
And according to OSHA:
“While today’s report shows a decline in the number of workplace fatalities, the loss of even one worker is too many,” said Loren Sweatt, Acting Assistant Secretary for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). “Through comprehensive enforcement and compliance assistance that includes educating job creators about their responsibilities under the law, and providing robust education opportunities to workers, OSHA is committed to ensuring the health and safety of the American workforce.”
This blog was originally published at Confined Space on December 18, 2018. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Jordan Barab was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor at OSHA from 2009 to 2017, and spent 16 years running the safety and health program at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).