EHS Management, Injuries and Illness

A Deluge of Injury Data from the Department of Labor

The federal government has long tracked both fatal and nonfatal workplace injuries. The Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has compiled and released a national Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) since 1992. Today and tomorrow, we’ll review key findings in the latest report.

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On December 18, 2018, the BLS released its most current figures for 2017. The overall results were encouraging. After 3 straight years of increases, there were 43 fewer workplace deaths in 2017 than in 2016.

The bureau reported a total of 5,147 fatal work injuries in 2017, down from 5,190 in 2016. The total brought down the rate of fatal injuries from 3.6 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers in 2016 to 3.5 in 2017.

The bureau also reported decreases in deaths due to certain causes and in certain types of incidents:

  • Violence and other injuries by persons or animals decreased 7% in 2017—homicides dropped by 8% and suicides decreased by 5%;
  • Incidents involving contact with objects and equipment were down 9% (695 in 2017, down from 761 in 2016) with caught in running equipment or machinery deaths down 26% (76 in 2017, down from 103 in 2016); and
  • Crane-related workplace fatalities fell to their lowest level ever recorded in the CFOI at 33 deaths in 2017.

All-Time Lows for Private Manufacturing

Some industries saw decreases in fatal injuries. In the private manufacturing and wholesale trade industries, the number of workplace deaths were their lowest since the BLS began breaking out figures for these industries in 2003. There were 303 fatalities in manufacturing in 2017 and 174 in the wholesale trade, down from 318 and 179, respectively, in 2016. While there was a decrease in the number of wholesale trade deaths, the rate of fatal injuries held steady at 0.2 (still well below the overall rate of 3.5 for all industries).

However, the fatal injury rate for manufacturing dropped from 2.0 in 2016 to 1.9 in 2017.

Increases Also Reported

However, despite the overall reduction in fatal injuries, some types of incidents reached all-time highs and certain occupations remained extremely dangerous. For example, fatal falls reached their highest level in the 26-year history of the survey, accounting for 887 (17% of) worker deaths. Other increases included:

  • Alcohol and drug overdoses on the job;
  • Deaths of heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers; and
  • Deaths of fishing and logging workers.

In fact, fishers and related fishing workers and logging workers had the highest published rates of fatal injury in 2017.

Fishing Remains Most Dangerous Job

Fishing remained one of the deadliest occupations. While only 41 fishers and related fishing workers died in 2017, the fatal work injury rate for the occupation was 99.8. Other occupations with significantly high fatal injury rates include the following:

  • Logging workers, 84.3;
  • Aircraft pilots and flight engineers, 48.6;
  • Roofers, 45.2;
  • Refuse and recyclable material collectors, 35.0; and
  • Structural iron and steel workers, 33.4.

Fatalities were down slightly for ground maintenance workers and supervisors. There were 244 fatalities in 2017, a small decrease from 247 who died in 2016. However, that still was the second-highest total since 2003. A total of 36 deaths were due to falls from trees, and another 35 were due to being struck by a falling tree or branch.

Transportation Takes a Heavy Toll

Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers had the largest number of fatal occupational injuries with 840. This represented the highest number of deaths since the BLS began tracking injuries for the occupation in 2003.

In fact, two occupational groups, the transportation and material moving group and the construction and extraction group accounted for 47% of all worker deaths in 2017.

Overall, transportation incidents accounted for 40% of occupational fatalities, a total of 2,077. Those also include:

  • 126 in aircraft incidents,
  • 48 in rail vehicle incidents,
  • 313 in pedestrian incidents (56 struck by a vehicle in a work zone),
  • 68 in water vehicle incidents, and
  • 337 in roadway incidents involving a collision with an object other than a vehicle.

Jack-knifed or overturned vehicles resulted in 197 roadway and 111 nonroadway deaths.

There were 1,084 fatal occupational injuries among motor vehicle operators. So, a large share—40%—of all fatal workplace injuries result from causes outside the purview of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or state worker safety and health agencies.

Several Department of Transportation and Department of Homeland Security agencies and a patchwork of state motor vehicle and local police departments are responsible for safety in the air and on roads and waterways. The Federal Aviation Administration and Transportation Security Administration are responsible for air safety. The U.S. Coast Guard oversees safety on the waterways.

Employees vs. Self-Employed

The rate of fatal injuries also was much higher for self-employed workers than for wage and salary employees. While 4,069 wage and salary employees died on the job in 2017, their fatal injury rate was 2.9. The rate for self-employed workers remains at 13.1. In 2017, 1,078 self-employed workers died on the job.

Check tomorrow’s EHS Daily Advisor for more information included in the CFOI.