BLS Workplace Injury Data: Fatalities at Highest Level Since 2007

Recent data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reveal that U.S. workplace injury rates did not improve during 2018—in fact, the amount of fatal injuries in particular actually increased to its highest level in more than a decade.

Read on for key findings from both the fatal and nonfatal injury reports, what the data means for the state of workplace safety and what can be done to better protect workers and prevent incidents.

Fatal Occupational Injuries

  • Most fatal injuries since 2007: There were 5,250 fatal workplace injuries during 2018—a 2 percent increase compared to 2017, and the highest annual number of fatalities since 2007. The rate of fatal workplace injuries was 3.5 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, unchanged from 2017.
  • Transportation incidents remained the most frequent cause of fatal injuries, accounting for 40% of fatal injuries. There were 2,080 transportation-related fatalities, up slightly from 2,077 in 2017.
  • African American and Hispanic workers: 2018 saw the most workplace fatalities among African American workers (615 cases) since 1999, and fatalities among Hispanic or Latino workers rose 6.4% as compared to 2017, with 961 cases.
  • Contact with objects or equipment: Fatalities resulting from contact with objects and equipment increased by 13%. Within this category, there was a 39% increase in workers caught in running equipment or machinery and a 17% increase in workers struck by falling objects or equipment.
  • Unintentional overdoses of non-medical drugs or alcohol increased for the sixth year in a row, with a 12% increase from 2017 to 2018 (305 cases).
  • You can find the complete 2018 fatal occupational injury data at bls.gov.

Nonfatal Occupational Injuries

  • No decline in nonfatal injuries: There were 2.8 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses reported for 2018, unchanged from 2017. This marks the first time since 2012 that the rate of nonfatal injuries did not improve.
  • Increase in retail injuries: The rate of total recordable cases of nonfatal injuries did increase in one industry—retail trade—rising from 3.3 cases to 3.5 cases per 100 full-time equivalent workers. This is the first increase in the TRC rate for retail trade since the annual data was first released in 2003.
  • Injuries requiring days away from work: There were 900,380 injuries and illnesses that were serious enough to require at least one day away from work, and the rate for such cases increased slightly compared to 2017.
  • Injuries requiring ER/hospital visits: For the first time, the data for injuries requiring days away from work included estimates for emergency room and hospital visits. A total of 333,830 cases (37%) required a visit to an ER or hospital.
  • You can find the complete 2018 nonfatal occupational injury and illness data at bls.gov.

What Does the Data Mean for Workplace Safety?

The increase in workplace fatalities and stall in movement toward fewer nonfatal injuries make it clear that a stronger focus on comprehensive safety programs that effectively protect workers is as critical as ever.

In response to the data, the National Safety Council said in a statement: “The data shows we are still not doing enough to protect our workers. Workplace fatalities should never be considered a cost of doing business. Employers need to take a systematic approach to safety that includes having policies, training and risk assessment techniques in place to address major causes of fatalities and injuries. Leadership needs to set the tone from the top and engage all workers in safety, identify hazards and measure safety performance using leading indicators to continuously improve.”

With the start of a new year, now is the perfect time to take stock of safety practices in your business and look at ways to strengthen your safety program to better protect your employees.

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