Fatal Work Injuries Rose to Eight-Year High in 2016
Workers age 55 and older had 1,848 fatal injuries, the highest number for this age group since CFOI began reporting national data in 1992, and fatal injuries in the leisure and hospitality sector were up 32 percent year over year (from 225 to 298) and reached an all-time series high in 2016.
U.S. companies and their workers experienced the highest number of fatal work injuries in 2016 since 2008 -- a total of 5,190 fatal work injuries, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Dec. 19 when it released the 2016 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries data. BLS said those 5,190 fatal injuries represented a 7 percent increase from the 4,836 fatal injuries reported in 2015; it was the third consecutive annual increase in workplace fatalities, and it was the first time more than 5,000 fatalities had been recorded by the CFOI since 2008. The fatal injury rate in 2016 increased to 3.6 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers from 3.4 in 2015.
Transportation-related fatalities were the most common type of fatal event in 2016, accounting for 40 percent of the total (2,083). However, possibly most alarming in the data was the fact that violence and other injuries by persons or animals increased 23 percent to become the second-most-common fatal event in 2016. Two other event types with large changes, BLS reported, were exposure to harmful substances or environments, which rose 22 percent, and fires and explosions, which declined 27 percent.
Occupations with increases above 10 percent in their number of fatal work injuries in 2016 included 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).
Jim Smith, M.S., CSP, ASSE's president, responded to the release in a statement saying, "Our goal as a leading occupational safety and health society is to bring best practices into the spotlight at all companies in every industry. We know that more employers need to shift from a compliance-based approach to a risk-based strategy when addressing safety concerns. When that consistently occurs, we'll see reductions in the fatal workplace injury rate across the country." Earlier this year, ASSE developed an "OSHA Reform Blueprint" that detailed its vision for the federal agency, calling for reforms to emphasize the management of risk, focus OSHA's efforts on the leading causes of fatalities, and fill legislative and regulatory gaps that limit OSHA's ability to better protect workers. ASSE will be working with new OSHA leadership in 2018 to advance workplace safety in a multitude of innovative ways, the society said Dec. 19.
BLS reported that workplace homicides increased by 83 cases to 500 in 2016 and workplace suicides increased by 62 to 291. This is the highest homicide figure since 2010 and the most suicides since CFOI began reporting data in 1992.
Fatal work injuries from falls, slips, or trips continued a general upward trend that began in 2011, increasing 6 percent to 849 in 2016 -- up by 25 percent overall since 2011. Falls increased by more than 25 percent in 2016 for roofers, carpenters, tree trimmers and pruners, and heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers.
Overdoses from the non-medical use of drugs or alcohol while on the job increased from 165 in 2015 to 217 in 2016, which is a 32 percent increase; BLS noted that overdose fatalities have increased by at least 25 percent annually since 2012.
Loren Sweatt, deputy assistant secretary for OSHA, said in a statement that the data "show a tragic trend with the third consecutive increase in worker fatalities in 2016 – the highest since 2008. America's workers deserve better.
"The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is committed to finding new and innovative ways of working with employers and employees to improve workplace safety and health. OSHA will work to address these trends through enforcement, compliance assistance, education and training, and outreach," Sweatt said. "As President Trump recognized by declaring opioid abuse a Nationwide Public Health Emergency, the nation's opioid crisis is impacting Americans every day at home and, as this data demonstrates, increasingly on the job. The Department of Labor will work with public and private stakeholders to help eradicate the opioid crisis as a deadly and growing workplace issue."
AFL-CIO Director of Safety & Health Peg Seminario said in a statement after the release that the the "increase in job fatalities in 2016 reported by BLS shows that for many groups of workers in this country work is becoming more dangerous and deadly. The 5,190 workplace deaths from injuries means that 14 workers were killed on the job a day, the highest number since 2008 and the highest rate since 2010.
"In industries where OSHA and MSHA focus resources and attention, fatality rates declined or remained stable," she continued. "But job fatalities are increasing in the growing sectors of the economy, including health care and food services, which receive little attention and oversight. The same is true for groups of workers that lack OSHA protection, including state and local government employees and many agriculture workers. Workplace violence is also a growing hazard and is now the second leading cause of job deaths. Federal OSHA now has fewer than 800 inspectors and can inspect workplaces on average only once every 159 years. OSHA's budget has declined since 2010 and been frozen for years. House Republicans are now seeking big cuts for 2018. Fewer resources and less oversight will mean more injuries and workplace deaths. Workers need more safety and health protection not less."
BLS said other key findings from the 2016 CFOI included:
- Asian, non-Hispanic workers incurred 160 fatal injuries, up from 114 in 2015, which at 40 percent was the highest percentage increase among all races and ethnic origins. African-American, non-Hispanic workers also had a large percentage increase, 19 percent, with 587 fatal injuries compared to 495 in 2015. The rate of fatal injury for both groups also increased.
- Foreign-born workers represent about one-fifth of the total fatal work injuries. Thirty-seven percent of those fatally injured were born in Mexico, followed by 19 percent from Asian countries.
- Workers age 55 and older had 1,848 fatal injuries, the highest number for this age group since CFOI began reporting national data in 1992. In 1992, workers age 55 and over accounted for 20 percent of fatalities, but in 2016, they accounted for 36 percent.
- Fatal injuries in the leisure and hospitality sector were up 32 percent year over year (from 225 to 298 in 2016) and reached an all-time series high in 2016, largely because of a 40 percent increase in fatal injuries in the food services and drinking places industry, from 118 to 165.
- BLS reported that 36 states 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 in 2015.