NSC Sees Increase in Unintentional Worker Fatality Rate

The National Safety Council is disheartened to see an increase in work-related fatality rates this year compared to last, and many think factors like drug overdoses and vehicle crashes are to blame.

The National Safety Council (NSC) noted a recent, slight increase in unintentional, preventable worker fatalities, according to data released at the end of last year. 2017 saw 4,414 worker deaths compared to the 4,398 in 2016, and data reveals that the most prevalent killers are drug overdoses, motor vehicle crashes, and falls to a lower level.

Data on yearly fatalities is analyzed a few months after the completion of the previous year. While the NSC announcement on this data was published in 2018, it refers to 2017 data. In 2017, drug overdoses claimed 272 lives compared with 217 in the previous year. Work-related motor vehicle crashes also rose from 1,252 to 1,299 in 2017, and falls to a lower level went from 697 to 713.

It’s important to remember that although motor vehicle crashes, falls from a lower level, and drug overdoses are preventable causes of death, they are still difficult to mitigate and prevent for many organizations and employers around the country. Motor vehicle crashes and falls are the leading cause of preventable death on the job. Drug overdoses are an emerging workplace threat, and it has quickly become the leading cause of preventable death off the job.

These causes of death are claiming more and more deaths—some on the job and some off—and the data indicates that not enough is being done to mitigate the risks of these harms. Leadership at work plays an integral role in setting the tone and engaging all employees in safety training and resources.

Employers can encourage safety and health for their employees in a number of ways. They can have policies and training in place to address the major causes of fatalities and injuries. The NSC offers resources like Safe Driving Kit and Prescription Drug Employer Toolkit.

As the 2019 year comes to a close, the NSC will be preparing to evaluate new data on the previous year to evaluate workplace fatality trends. Hopefully numbers will show an improvement in workplace safety and will not mirror the 2017 data.  

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