EHS Management, Injuries and Illness

Overdoses and Other Causes: More from the CFOI

In yesterday’s EHS Daily Advisor, we took a look at some of the findings from the latest national Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) from the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), released on December 18, 2018. Today we’re reviewing some other key findings of the report, including the effect of overdoses and which states fared better than others when it came to fatal workplace injuries.

Safety documents

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Deaths of Older Workers

There also was a significant correlation between worker age and both the number and rate of fatal workplace injuries. For example, while only seven 16- to 17-year-old workers died in 2017 at a rate of 0.8 per 100,000, workers aged 55 to 64 years old accounted for the highest number of fatal injuries—1,155—at a rate of 4.6.

The highest fatal injury rate in 2017 was seen among workers aged 65 years and over. They accounted for 775 deaths at a rate of 10.3. Workers aged 65 or over accounted for 15% of fatally injured workers, an all-time high in the 26-year history of the CFOI.

The toll was especially high among older farmers, ranchers, and agricultural managers. Approximately 63% of farmers killed in 2017 were aged 65 and over, and 48 of those were 80 years old or over. There were 258 fatalities overall among farmers, ranchers, and agricultural managers; 103 of those involved a farm tractor.

There also was a gender disparity in both the numbers and rates of workplace deaths. Men accounted for nearly 93% of all fatal injuries. In 2017, 4,761 men died on the job at a rate of 5.8 per 100,000. However, 386 women died at a rate of 0.6.

Fatalities incurred by non-Hispanic black  workers and non-Hispanic Asian workers each decreased 10% from 2016 to 2017. However, workplace deaths among Hispanic or Latino workers rose from 879 in 2016 to 903 in 2017.

Overdoses on the Job

Not all workplace deaths were due to job-related causes. Drug and alcohol abuse contributed to a growing number of occupational fatalities. Fatal overdoses on the job increased 25% from 217 in 2016 to 272 in 2017. The number has increased over several years and now accounts for a significant portion of workplace deaths.

Unintentional overdoses due to nonmedical use of drugs and alcohol have increased by at least 25% for 5 straight years. The number of overdoses has been rising since 2012:

  • From 65 in 2012 to 82 in 2013,
  • To 114 in 2014,
  • To 165 in 2015.

The 272 drug and alcohol overdoses accounted for 5.3% of all fatal injuries in 2017.

Other Causes

Many workplace deaths were the result of a handful of causes and types of incidents. While suicides were down from 291 in 2016 to 275 in 2017, suicides represented 5.3% of fatal workplace injuries in 2017. Other causes accounted for even larger percentages of deaths:

  • 317 deaths due to exposures to harmful substances, 6% of all deaths;
  • 458 homicides, 8.9%; and
  • 663 fatalities in roadway collisions involving another vehicle, 12.9%.

Slips, Trips, and Falls

The 887 fatal slips, trips, and falls accounted for 17.2% of deaths. In fact, fatal falls were at their highest level in the survey’s history.

Along with falls, many of the leading causes of fatal occupational injuries closely correspond to the violations most frequently cited by OSHA. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, the most frequently cited federal standards were:

  1. Fall protection, construction;
  2. Hazard communication;
  3. Scaffolding, general requirements, construction;
  4. Respiratory protection;
  5. Control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout);
  6. Ladders, construction;
  7. Powered industrial trucks;
  8. Fall protection training requirements, construction;
  9. Machinery and machine guarding; and
  10. Eye and face protection, construction.

Mixed Results Among States

A total of 27 states had fewer fatal workplace injuries in 2017 than in 2016, while 21 states and the District of Columbia had more.

The number of fatalities remained unchanged in California and Maine. However, the rate of fatal injuries in Maine increased from 2.4 in 2016 to 2.7 in 2017.

Fatalities increased in Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The number of deaths went down in Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming.

The three states with the highest rates of fatal occupational industries were:

  • Alaska with 10.2 per 100,000;
  • North Dakota with 10.1; and
  • Wyoming with 7.7.

Invaluable Research Source

Like the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII), which tallies and characterizes nonfatal injuries, CFOI data is an invaluable resource for industry and academic researchers. The BLS offers access to tables, charts, and database searches of data collected over decades.

BLS’s collected data is available online at While the bureau identified 5,147 fatal injuries in 2017, it reported 2,811,500 nonfatal injuries and illnesses in 2017. These resulted in 8 median days away from work. BLS data tables sort these incidents by case circumstances and worker characteristics, as well as by industry.

The CFOI is compiled by BLS’s Occupational Safety and Health Statistics program from various state, federal, and independent data sources.  For its 2017 data collection, BLS researchers review over 23,400 unique source documents. However, BLS figures may not always correspond to data reported by others. Some of the data used in the CFOI may be outside the scope of other agencies or regulatory coverage.

The national data compilation also excludes certain territories and U.S. possessions. It does not include figures for Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The CFOI does include data for the District of Columbia.

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