Number of Workplace Deaths Hit 12-Year High December 31, 2020
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 5,333 workers died from injuries they sustained while working in 2019. This is nearly a 2% increase from the year before. The bureau has not recorded this many on the job deaths since 2007. The growing rate of fatal injuries marks a devastating surge in preventable workplace safety and health failures, endangering workers who already face numerous hazards due to the dangerous nature of their jobs.
Here are a few other key highlights from the BLS’ report on 2019’s workplace deaths:
- Fatality rates among construction and extraction (e.g. mining) workers increased by more than 6%
- There were 11% more slips, trips, and falls that resulted in workplace deaths than the year before. All in all, slips, trips, and falls caused 880 deaths
- Transportation-related fatalities rose by 2% and accounted for nearly 40% of all fatal workplace incidents. Drivers and sales workers experienced the highest rate of fatal injuries since 2003
- Hispanic and Latino workers accounted for every 1 out of 5 workplace deaths, which is more than 13% higher than the year before
Even though plenty of jobs and different lines of work are inherently dangerous because of hazards like using heavy industrial equipment such as forklifts and cranes, working at heights, working on active roadway work zones, and exposure to fumes and chemicals (just to name a few), the National Safety Council (NSC) says it best: fatalities should never be the price of conducting business.
Risk Factors for Fatal Workplace Accidents
The BLS reports that the most common causes behind workplace fatal injuries last year were:
- Transportation incidents
- Violence and other injuries by persons or animals
- Falls, slips, and trips
- Contact with objects and/or equipment
- Exposure to harmful substances or environments
- Fires and explosions
- Overexertion and bodily reaction
In recent years and perhaps even more so in the last few months, there have been several harmful rollbacks to federal rules and regulations that are meant to establish lifesaving protocols for workplace safety and health programs. Just a few examples of these rollbacks include guidelines that allow employers to request that workers go to work or return to work even if they were exposed to COVID-19, reducing paid sick time and sick leave policies, and scaling back on requiring employers to maintain up to date and accurate records of workplace injuries, illnesses, and other incidents that occur.
The Importance of Industrial Injury and Illness Prevention Programs
In addition to problematic federal rollbacks, there are far too many employers that still regularly fail to adequately protect workers from known job-related risks and hazards. The truth is, almost every single fatal workplace injury is preventable. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), at least 12 workers die on the job each day and more than 4 million others experience injuries that range in severity from mild to debilitating. Some of these injuries cause permanent disabilities that prevent someone from ever returning to work again and also greatly alters their overall quality of life.
It is a well-known fact that when employers fail to maintain safe workplaces, employees get hurt. Workers in the following industries incur the highest rates of fatal workplace injuries:
- Fishing and hunting workers
- Pilots and flight engineers
- Construction workers and helpers
- Driver/sales workers and truck drivers
- Steel and iron workers
- Grounds maintenance workers
- Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural workers
- Refuse and recyclable material collectors
OSHA requires employers in more than 30 states to implement effective injury and illness prevention programs. These programs proactively address known on-the-job dangers and hazards before they cause lead to avoidable and tragic injuries. Some states (like Pennsylvania) offer employers voluntary injury and illness programs that they can opt into to reduce their workers’ compensation insurance rates and premiums. Even if a state does not require employers to uphold an injury and illness prevention program, they are still legally required to provide workers with a safe and healthful workplace. This includes addressing known hazards, mitigating associated risk factors, providing personal protective equipment (PPE) and putting effective protective safeguards in place.
When a worker is injured on the job, he or she may be able to file a workers’ compensation claim. Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that provides medical benefits and wage replacement to victims of unsafe work environments. To learn more about filing a workers’ compensation claim, someone at our firm can help. Contact a representative online now.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Representing Injured Workers Since 1947
Galfand Berger, LLP has offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Reading and Lancaster, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.