U.S. Fatal Work Injury Rate Dropped in 2017

Fatal falls were at their highest level in the 26-year history of the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) and accounted for 887 workers' deaths. BLS also reported that fatal occupational injuries involving confined spaces rose 15 percent to 166 in 2017 from 144 in 2016.

A total of 5,147 fatal work injuries were recorded in the United States in 2017, down slightly from the 5,190 fatal injuries reported in 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Dec. 18. BLS reported that the fatal injury rate decreased to 3.5 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers from 3.6 in 2016.

Fatal falls were at their highest level in the 26-year history of the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) and accounted for 887 workers' deaths (17 percent of the total). Transportation incidents remained the most frequent fatal event in 2017, with 2,077 (40 percent) occupational fatalities. Violence and other injuries by persons or animals decreased 7 percent in 2017, with homicides and suicides decreasing by 8 percent and 5 percent, respectively.

Unintentional overdoses due to non-medical use of drugs or alcohol while at work increased 25 percent, from 217 in 2016 to 272 in 2017. This was the fifth consecutive year in which unintentional workplace overdose deaths have increased by at least 25 percent.

Contact with objects and equipment incidents were down 9 percent (695 in 2017 from 761 in 2016), with caught in running equipment or machinery deaths down by 26 percent (76 in 2017 from 103 in 2016).

BLS also reported that fatal occupational injuries involving confined spaces rose 15 percent to 166 in 2017 from 144 in 2016, while crane-related workplace fatalities fell to their lowest level ever recorded in the CFOI, to 33 deaths in 2017.

There were 258 fatalities among farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers in 2017. Approximately 63 percent of these farmers were age 65 and over (162), with 48 being age 80 or older. Of the 258 deaths, 103 involved a farm tractor.

BLS also reported that 15 percent of the fatally injured workers in 2017 were age 65 or over – and this is a series high. By contrast, in 1992, the first year CFOI published national data, that figure was 8 percent.

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