Injuries and Illness

A Death in the Workplace: Which Workers Are at the Highest Risk?

Some groups of workers are at higher risk of work-related death than others. Do you have any of these high-risk groups in your workplace? And if you do, what are the best strategies for keeping them safe?

Workers may be at increased risk of dying at work because of their race or their status in the workplace.

Hispanic/Latino Workers at Risk

Almost all major racial and ethnic groups had lower fatality rates in 2013 than in 2012. Among non-Hispanic white workers, fatal injury rates decreased by 6% over 2012. Among non-Hispanic black/African-American workers, fatal injuries decreased by 15%, and among non-Hispanic Asians, rates decreased 22%. Only one racial group, Hispanic and Latino workers, faced increased fatality rates—7% higher in 2013.
The majority of Hispanic and Latino workers who died were foreign-born; 42% were natives of Mexico.

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The takeaway for employers: Workers who do not speak English as a first language require more intensive training than other workers. They may also work disproportionately in higher-risk professions, making understandable training even more important.

Contract Workers at Risk

Beginning in 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) began identifying contract workers in its statistics. A “contractor” is defined by the BLS as “a worker employed by one firm but working at the behest of another firm that exercises overall responsibility for the operations at the site where the decedent was fatally injured.” Contract workers suffered 15% of all fatal injuries in 2012; in 2013, they suffered 17% of all workplace fatalities. What killed them? Falls to a lower level (31% of contract worker deaths); being struck by objects, equipment, or vehicles (39%); and electrocution (7%). Contractors suffered more from these hazard categories than all workers. Half worked in construction and extraction occupations.

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The takeaway for employers: Contract workers are at high risk for work-related fatalities. Often they do not receive the same level of training that regular employees receive, and they often work in higher-risk occupations—a deadly combination. If you have contract workers in your workplace, make sure that there is a clear understanding between you and your contract agency regarding who provides what training and how workers will be oriented to your site and integrated into your workforce.

Need more training resources to use with your Spanish-speaking workers or with your contractors?® has you covered.