The latest information (December 2021) provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that in the last measured year (2020), there were 4.764 fatal work injuries in the US. This figure, though still large, represents a 10.7% reduction from 2019. Indeed, the 2020 figures are the lowest since 2013. Transportation-related accidents are still the main issue; they caused 1,778 deaths, accounting for over a third of all fatalities. The statistics also indicate that not all workers have the same injury rates. For instance, the number of Hispanic workers who were fatally injured while working continued to grow, reaching 22.5% of fatalities (compared to 20.4% in 2019).
Women make up 8.1% of all fatalities but represent 16.3% of workplace homicides. As a whole, significantly fewer women than men die of work-related injuries, despite the fact that they make up 46% of the workforce. As reported in the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, this is because women hold fewer jobs in the riskiest occupational groups. The vast majority of deaths occur in jobs involving farming, production and craft, machine operation, and the like, and women only hold around a tenth of these jobs. Meanwhile, the number of fatalities among workers aged between 45 and 54 is at an all-time low since 1992 and the number of occupational fatalities among African American workers has dropped.
What Events Cause Fatalities?
The events causing the most fatalities are transportation incidents, falls and slips, violence from other persons or animals, contact with equipment, exposure to harmful substances, and fires. The difference between relative rates is large, with workers in transportation and the movement of materials accounting for almost 50% of all fatal work injuries. In fact, an experienced personal injury lawyer will probably tell you that some of their biggest wrongful cases involve families of fatal trucking accidents. This is because trucking companies are not, per se, required to compensate families whose loved one was a victim of a fatal accident. Despite their prevalence, the number of fatal transportation incidents actually fell by 16.2% between 2019 and 2020. Other professions that have seen a decrease include workers in sales, aircraft pilots and flight engineers, and fishing and hunting workers. Other professions saw a rise—the list includes healthcare support workers and law enforcement workers.
Exposure to Harmful Substances or Environments on the Rise
The exposure to toxic substances or environments caused 672 workers fatalities in 2020—the highest figure obtained since 2011. The reasons include the rise of global chemical production and the growing number of new chemicals. Exposure to dangerous chemicals (both indoor and outdoor) can cause a number of diseases and conditions, including respiratory and cardiovascular issues. The constant development of new materials and compounds leads to many potential health problems because it can take many years to gather the data needed to prove their harmfulness.
The most recent statistics provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that fatal occupational injuries are lower than they have been since 2013. Still, one worker died every 111 minutes from this type of injury, indicating that stricter safety and prevention policies still need to be adopted. This is particularly true in the case of some fatalities, including those caused by exposure to harmful substances.