The most recent workplace injury and death statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that there were 5,333 fatal occupational injuries in the United States in 2019, the largest number since 2007. Every 99 minutes, a worker in the United States died as a result of a work-related injury. Increases in workplace deaths were seen due to suicide, unintentional overdose, fires and explosions, exposure to harmful substances or environments, and falls, slips, and trips. The largest share of workplace fatalities was attributed to transportation incidents.
The BLS and other organizations track workplace fatalities across the country to offer insight into potential hazards and what can be done to improve working conditions for employees in every industry. Below is a breakdown of workplace fatality statistics released by the BLS, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).
BLS Work Accident Statistics
Workplace Deaths by Event
The leading cause of workplace deaths was motor vehicle accidents. Roughly 40% of workplace deaths occurred in transportation incidents. Other leading causes were falls/slips and trips, deaths from being struck by objects or equipment, and exposure to harmful chemicals.
- Transportation incidents – 40%
- Falls, slips, trips – 17%
- Violence and other injuries by persons or animals – 16%
- Contact with objects and equipment – 14%
- Exposure to harmful substances or environments – 12%
- Fires and explosions – 2%
Workplace Deaths by Industry
The industries with the highest amounts of fatal injuries were, unsurprisingly, the construction industry and the transportation industry.
- Construction deaths: 1061
- Transportation and warehousing: 913
- Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting deaths: 573
- Government workplace deaths: 426
- Retail trade deaths: 291
- Leisure and hospitality industry deaths: 271
Occupations with the Highest Rates of Workplace Death
According to the 2019 data, commercial fishermen may have the most dangerous job in the country. There were 145 fatalities for every 100,000 full-time workers. While the fatality rates decreased for logging and fishing, that may be due to increasing rates in other industries. Below are the top 10 civilian occupations with the highest rate of workplace fatalities, as indicated by their fatality rate (number of fatalities per 100,000 workers).
- Fishers and related fishing workers – 145
- Logging Workers – 68.9
- Aircraft pilots and flight engineers – 61.8
- Roofers – 54
- Helpers, construction trades – 40
- Refuse and recyclable material collectors – 35.2
- Driver/sales workers and truck drivers – 26.8
- Structural iron and steel workers – 26.3
- Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers – 23.2
- Grounds maintenance workers – 19.8
Workplace Deaths by State
Texas, with its large population and booming construction and oil and gas industries, accounted for 11.4% of all workplace deaths. Below are the states that suffered the most workplace fatalities in 2018, the most recent year available on the BLS website.
- Texas – 608
- California – 451
- Florida – 306
- New York – 273
- Georgia – 207
- North Carolina – 186
- Virginia – 180
- Ohio – 166
- Michigan – 164
- Illinois – 158
- Pennsylvania – 154
- Indiana – 146
Workplace Deaths by City
The cities that had the most number of workplace deaths are largely the most populated cities in the country. Not surprisingly, New York City led the nation with 215 fatalities, followed by Chicago, Houston, and Dallas.
- New York City – 215
- Chicago – 102
- Houston – 101
- Dallas – 95
- Los Angeles – 94
- Miami – 80
- Boston – 74
- Atlanta – 70
- Washington D.C. / Alexandria, VA – 63
- Detroit – 62
- San Bernardino – 54
- Baltimore – 45
OSHA Work Accident Statistics
OSHA is one of the most important organizations for the American worker. Since it was created in 1971, OSHA has worked to reduce daily worker deaths in the United States from 38 each day to 14. OSHA matters because it has proven one thing: safety practices eliminate worker fatalities and injuries.
However, OSHA is a small organization tasked with overseeing the safety of every workplace in the United States. It has about 2,100 inspectors who are responsible for protecting the health and safety of over 130 million workers dispersed throughout more than 8 million worksites. To combat the restrictions of its size, OSHA asks employers to help them by taking on the responsibility of providing a safe workplace. To make safety easier, OSHA releases a set of annual statistics to help employers address common safety concerns.
2018 OSHA Inspection Facts
In 2018, OSHA inspectors completed a total of 32,023 inspections. Of these inspections, 18,067—or 56 percent—of them were unprogrammed. Unprogrammed inspections are those that occur because of employee complaints or injuries and fatalities.
The most common OSHA citations in 2018 were the following:
- Fall protection, construction
- Hazard communication standards
- Scaffolding, general requirements
- Respiratory protection
- Control of hazardous energy
- Powered industrial trucks
- Fall protection training
- Machinery and Machine Guarding
- Eye and Face Protection
Knowing these infractions matters because responsible employers can use this list to help address worker safety issues at their locations. Since more than half of OSHA inspections are in response to problems, employers have the power to prevent an OSHA inspector from coming to their locations by making sure their workers are safe. Eventually, these hazards cause preventable deaths and injuries. Employers have a responsibility to avoid these infractions, whether they have an OSHA inspection.
AFL-CIO's "Death on the Job" Report
Each year the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)releases Death on the Job, a report that tracks how many workers die in the United States. The most recent report analyzes workplace fatalities for 2017. AFL-CIO states that its mission is to make sure that all working people in America are treated fairly. This includes having a safe workplace.
While the organization acknowledges that worker safety has come a long way since the OSH Act of 1970, it states that too many workers are still at risk of serious injury and death. By publishing this report, the AFL-CIO hopes to increase awareness about the lack of safety at American workplaces.
Below are some of the key findings from the AFL-CIO report.
Total Number of Workplace Fatalities and Injuries
There were 5,147 workplace fatalities in the United States in 2017. It is estimated that an additional 95,000 died as a result of occupational diseases contracted at the workplace. Yet, these deaths are not included in official reports. If they were, statistics would reveal that about 275 people die from work-related injuries or illnesses each day.
In 2017, there were approximately 3.5 million reported non-fatal worker injuries. Notably, the organization points out that limitations in reporting and a lack of accountability make knowing how exactly many workers are injured. In fact, the organization states that many more workers suffer than reports reveal. It estimates that numbers are three times higher—meaning about 7-10.5 million injuries and illnesses harm workers each year.
Workplace Fatality Rates by State
The top five deadliest states to work in are as follows:
- Alaska (10.2 per 100,000 workers)
- North Dakota (10.1 per 100,000 workers)
- Wyoming (7.7 per 100,000 workers)
- West Virginia (7.4 per 100,000 workers)
- South Dakota (7.3 per 100,000 workers)
Insufficient Resources for Effective Safety Oversight
Importantly, the AFL-CIO warns that fatality and injury rates are increasing in some sectors because OSHA does not have the funding or resources to make sure all employers follow safety laws.
It points out that:
- There are only 1,815 inspectors (752 federal and 1,063 state) to inspect the 9.8 million workplaces under the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s jurisdiction.
- The number of OSHA inspectors is at the lowest number since the early 1970s.
- Federal OSHA has enough inspectors to inspect workplaces only once every 165 years.
- State OSHA plans to have enough inspectors to inspect workplaces once every 108 years.
- There is one inspector for every 79,262 workers.
- The current OSHA budget amounts to $3.64 to protect each worker.
In other words, the safety of workers in the United States relies on the responsibility of employers. While many companies are diligent about protecting their employees, too many are cutting corners and placing lives at risk.
Texas Workplace Fatality Statistics
Each year, the Texas Department of Insurance's Division of Workers’ Compensation releases information about fatal occupational injuries in Texas. The department released the most recent set of data in December 2018, and it describes fatal work accidents that occurred in 2017.
Deadliest Industry Segment
The report found that the industry with the highest number of fatal injuries was trade, transportation, and utilities. This section of the Texas economy had 148 fatal incidents, or 28 percent of all work-related deaths. Even though fatal work accidents decreased from 545 to 534 between 2016 and 2017, trade, transportation, and utilities jobs had a nearly six-percent increase in deadly accidents. The second most deadly industry in the state is construction. In 2017, 133 fatal incidents happened in the construction industry throughout Texas, or 25 percent of all incidents.
Industries with a high number of fatal incidents include:
- Natural Resources and Mining: 71 incidents
- Professional and business services: 60 incidents
- Educational and health services: 22 incidents
- Manufacturing: 18 incidents
The occupation with the most fatal work injuries was professional drivers and truck drivers. Drivers accounted for 116 of all incidents, or 22 percent of the state’s fatal work incidents. Construction workers have the second most dangerous job in the state, with 43 fatal incidents.
Other dangerous occupations include the following:
- Laborers and material movers: 24 incidents
- Grounds maintenance workers: 18 incidents
- Construction or extraction supervisors: 15 incidents
- Electricians: 12 incidents
- Police Offices: 11 incidents
- Roofers: 10 incidents
- Automotive technicians and repairers: 10 incidents
Does Texas Do Enough to Protect Workers?
In a 2014 article, the New York Times described how politicians boast about the state’s “miracle economy.” However, the article points out one thing that these politicians do not focus on: Texas led the nation for worker deaths for seven out of ten years. Texas does not require private employers to carry workers’ compensation. So, when an accident happens, many employees are left wondering what they can do to recover. The state is one of the only ones in the nation with no agencies designated to inspect workplace safety. Instead, Texas relies on OSHA, an agency with one of the highest worker-to-inspector ratios in the country. With about 1,000 inspectors, OSHA cannot effectively enforce safety laws across millions of work sites.
Contact a Skilled Work Accident Lawyer at Arnold & Itkin
If you or someone you love was injured in a work-related accident, or if you lost someone you love, then it is imperative that you contact an experienced lawyer you can trust. At Arnold & Itkin LLP, we've protected the rights of injured workers since 2004. Throughout the years, we have recovered billions of dollars in verdicts and settlements for our clients, including hundreds of results of $1 million or more. If you would like to learn more about how our firm can stand up for your legal rights, do not hesitate to contact our work accident attorneys immediately.
Call (888) 493-1629 to schedule a free review of your workplace fatality case today.