Fatal Work Injuries in 2021 Up Almost Nine Percent from 2020

In 2021, 5,190 workers lost their lives compared to 4,764 in 2020.

The number of fatal injuries at work rose in 2021, up almost nine percent from 2020.

According to a news release, it was reported that 5,190 workers lost their lives on the job in 2021, compared to the 4,764 workers who lost their lives in 2020.

Although the number of fatal injuries in 2021 is lower than before the COVID-19 pandemic (5,333 in 2019), the fatal work injury rate in 2021 is the highest it’s been since 2016. Both years recorded a rate of 3.6 per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers.

“Today’s announcement by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of a one-year increase of nearly 9 percent in fatal work injuries serves as call to action for OSHA, employers and other stakeholders to redouble our collective efforts to make our nation’s workplaces safer,” said Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker in a statement.

In 2020, Black or African American worker deaths comprised 11.4 percent, or 541 deaths, of the total number of lives lost. In 2021, the number increased to 12.6 percent, or 653 deaths, representing “an all-time high,” the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

Fatality rates for Black or African American workers and Hispanic or Latino workers were also higher than the overall rate in 2021. The rate for Black or African American workers was 4.0 per 100,000 FTE workers and the rate for Hispanic or Latino workers was 4.5 per 100,000 FTE workers. “These are deeply troubling facts,” Parker said.

“Each of these deaths cruelly impacts these workers’ families, friends, co-workers and communities. They are clear reminders of the important work that must be done. OSHA and its thousands of professionals across the nation are determined to enforce the law while working with employers, workers, labor unions, trade associations and other stakeholders to ensure that every worker in the U.S. ends their workday safely,” Parker continued.

Other notable people and organizations have commented on these newly released statistics, including President and CEO of the National Safety Council Lorraine Martin. “The data included in this report indicate workplaces have become less safe, and it is heartbreaking,” Martin said in a news release. “Everyone deserves the chance to live their fullest life. This report shows our mission to save lives, from the workplace to anyplace, is critical, and NSC is committed to doing its part to curb this deadly trend and put an end to preventable workplace fatalities.”

For an in-depth look at 2021 fatal injuries by characteristics, such as event, occupation and exposure, click here

About the Author

Alex Saurman is a former Content Editor for Occupational Health & Safety,who has since joined OH&S’s client services team. She continues to work closely with OH&S’s editorial team and contributes to the magazine.

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