'We Know How to Prevent These Deaths': Perez Responds to CFOI Numbers

Fatal exposures to electricity were down in 2015, but fatalities due to exposure to temperature extremes rose, while occupational deaths from nonmedical use of drugs or alcohol, unintentional overdose, increased 45 percent in 2015 to 165, and there were 136 workers who died in incidents associated with confined spaces in 2015.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released key findings from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries on Dec. 16, reporting there were 4,836 fatal work injuries recorded in the United States in 2015, which represents a slight increase from the 4,821 fatal injuries reported in 2014. BLS said the release is the first time that the CFOI has published a single annual release with no revisions, and this will be the only release for 2015 CFOI data. (A similar schedule will be followed in future years, BLS reported, so there will be no August or September preliminary releases.)

Key findings of the 2015 CFOI:

  • The annual total of 4,836 fatal workplace injuries in 2015 was the highest since 5,214 fatal injuries in 2008.
  • The overall rate of fatal work injury for workers in 2015, 3.38 per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, was lower than the 2014 rate of 3.43.
  • The number of Latino workers dying on the job in 2015 -- 903 -- is the most in any year since 937 fatalities in 2007.
  • Work-related deaths among workers 65 and older totaled 650, the second-largest number for that age group since the national census began in 1992. Still, it was down from the 2014 figure of 684.
  • Road fatalities were up 9 percent from 2014 totals and represent more than 25 percent of the fatal occupational injuries in 2015.
  • Workplace suicides decreased 18 percent in 2015, but homicides were up 2 percent from 2014.
  • Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers recorded 745 fatal injuries, the most of any occupation.
  • There were 937 fatal work injuries in the private construction industry in 2015, the most since 975 cases in 2008.
  • Fatal injuries in the private oil and gas extraction industries were down 38 percent in 2015 from the total in 2014.
  • Seventeen percent of workers who died were contract personnel at the time of the incident.

BLS' release said while workers age 45 and older accounted for 58 percent of the workplace fatalities in 2015, they accounted for only 45 percent of the total hours worked. Fatal injury rates were generally lower among younger workers (2.3 per 100,000 FTE workers for those age 25-34) and higher among older workers (9.4 per 100,000 FTE workers for those age 65 and older).

It says falls to a lower level accounted for 81 percent of all fatal falls and, of the cases where the height of the fall was known, more than two-fifths of fatal falls occurred from 15 feet or lower. Fatal falls to a lower level accounted for nearly 40 percent of fatal work injuries in the private construction industry in 2015.

In addition, workers were fatally struck by an object or equipment 519 times in 2015, and they were most frequently struck by plants, trees, and vegetation (110); highway vehicles (104); and construction, logging, and mining machinery (54). Fatal exposures to electricity were down in 2015, but fatalities due to exposure to temperature extremes rose, while occupational deaths from nonmedical use of drugs or alcohol, unintentional overdose, increased 45 percent in 2015 to 165, and there were 136 workers who died in incidents associated with confined spaces in 2015.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez issued a statement saying the number "underscore the urgent need for employers to provide a safe workplace for their employees as the law requires. We have a moral responsibility to make sure that workers who showed up to work today are still alive to punch the clock tomorrow. The fact is, we know how to prevent these deaths. The U.S. Department of Labor is – and will always be – committed to working with employers, workers, community organizations, unions and others to improve safety and health in our nation’s workplaces. This effort is essential to ensuring that no more workers are taken unnecessarily from their families."

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