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How Many Workers Die in the United States? [Updated 2020]

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 American 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 makes knowing how exactly many workers are injured while on the job. In fact, the organization states that many more workers suffer than reports reveal. It estimates that numbers are three times higher—meaning about 7 million to 10.5 injuries and illnesses harm workers each year.

Workplace Fatality Rates by State

The top five deadliest states to work in are as follows:

  1. Alaska (10.2 per 100,000 workers)
  2. North Dakota (10.1 per 100,000 workers)
  3. Wyoming (7.7 per 100,000 workers)
  4. West Virginia (7.4 per 100,000 workers)
  5. South Dakota (7.3 per 100,000 workers)

Workplace Fatalities by Industry

The report also reveals that construction remains the deadliest job in the United States.

The industries with the highest number of workplace fatalities are as follows:

  • Construction – 971 workplace fatalities
  • Transportation and warehousing – 882
  • Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting – 581

The AFL-CIO also notes that the mining sector, including oil and gas extraction, had an increase in fatalities. This sector had 12.9 fatalities per 100,000 workers— a fatality rate that’s four times higher than the national average. Oil and gas workers account for 72% of these fatalities.

OSHA Lacks 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 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.