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Bad News from BLS: Several Industries Experiencing Higher Rates of Occupational Fatalities

Sept. 22, 2015
Mining, construction, manufacturing, law enforcement and agriculture experience significant increases in fatal injuries in 2014, and the news isn’t great for older workers, either.

A preliminary total of 4,679 fatal work injuries were recorded in the United States in 2014, an increase of two percent over the revised count of 4,585 fatal work injuries in 2013, according to results from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Three industries/occupations – mining (17 percent), law enforcement (17 percent) and agriculture (14 percent) – experienced double-digit increases, while manufacturing deaths were up by nine percent and construction fatalities increased by six percent.

In other bad news, rates of fatal occupational injuries for workers 55 and older are the highest they’ve ever been.

“Far too many people are still killed on the job – 13 workers every day taken from their families tragically and unnecessarily,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez. “These numbers underscore the urgent need for employers to provide a safe workplace for their employees as the law requires.”

The preliminary rate of fatal work injury for U.S. workers in 2014 was 3.3 per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers. Other key preliminary findings of the 2014 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries include: 

  • The number of fatal work injuries in private goods-producing industries in 2014 was 9 percent higher than the revised 2013 count but slightly lower in private service-providing industries. Fatal injuries were higher in mining (up 17 percent), agriculture (up 14 percent), manufacturing (up 9 percent) and construction (up six percent).
  • Fatal work injuries for government workers were lower (down 12 percent). 
  • Falls, slips and trips increased 10 percent to 793 in 2014 from 724 in 2013. This was driven largely by an increase in falls to a lower level to 647 in 2014 from 595 in 2013.
  • Fatal work injuries involving workers 55 years of age and over rose nine percent to 1,621 in 2014, up from 1,490 in 2013. The preliminary 2014 count for workers 55 and over is the highest total ever reported by CFOI. 
  • After a sharp decline in 2013, fatal work injuries among self-employed workers increased 10 percent in 2014 from 950 in 2013 to 1,047 in 2014.
  • Women incurred 13 percent more fatal work injuries in 2014 than in 2013. Even with this increase, women accounted for only eight percent of all fatal occupational injuries in 2014.
  • Fatal work injuries among Hispanic or Latino workers were lower in 2014, while fatal injuries among non-Hispanic white, black or African-American and Asian workers were all higher.
  • In 2014, 797 workers suffering fatal occupational injuries were identified as contracted workers, six percent higher than the 749 fatally-injured contracted workers reported in 2013. Workers who were contracted at the time of their fatal injuries accounted for 17 percent of all fatal work injury cases in 2014.
  • The number of fatal work injuries among police officers and police supervisors was higher in 2014, rising from 88 in 2013 to 103 in 2014, an increase of 17 percent.   

“BLS data shows fatalities rising in the construction sector (along with an overall increase in construction employment). Dangerous workplaces also are taking the lives of a growing number of people in oil and gas extraction,” said Perez. “That is why OSHA continues extensive outreach and strong enforcement campaigns in these industries. The U.S. Department of Labor will continue to work with employers, workers, community organizations, unions and others to make sure that all workers can return home safely at the end of every day.”

Worker Characteristics 

Fatal injuries to self-employed workers rose 10 percent in 2014 to 1,047, up from 950 in 2013. Although higher than in 2013, the 2014 preliminary total for self-employed workers is about the same as the 10-year average for the series. Fatal injuries among wage and salary workers remained at about the same level as in 2013. 

Fatal work injuries involving workers age 45 to 54 years, 55 to 64 years and 65 years of age and over all increased in 2014 compared to 2013 totals. The number of workers 55 years and over who were fatally injured in 2014 increased nine percent to 1,621, the highest annual total since the inception of the fatality census  in 1992. Workers of a wide variety of ages are included in the 2014 CFOI counts – eight workers under the age of 16 are included as well as eight workers age 90 and over. 

Fatal injuries among women rose 13 percent in 2014 to 359 from 319 in 2013. Fatal work injuries among men in 2014 were slightly higher than the previous year. Consistent with previous years, men accounted for 92 percent of all fatal occupational injuries. 

Fatal work injuries among Hispanic or Latino workers fell three percent to 789 in 2014, compared to 817 in 2013. Fatal work injuries were higher among non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black or African-American and non-Hispanic Asian workers.

Overall, there were 827 fatal work injuries involving foreign-born workers in 2014. These 827 foreign-born workers came from over 80 different countries, with the greatest number of workers (334 or 40 percent) born in Mexico. Of the 789 fatal work injuries incurred by Hispanic or Latino workers, 503 (64 percent) involved foreign-born workers. Of the 134 fatal work injuries incurred by non-Hispanic Asian workers, 116 (87 percent) involved foreign-born workers. 

Type of Incident 

In 2014, fatal work injuries due to transportation incidents were slightly higher – 1,891, up from 1,865 in 2013. Overall, transportation incidents accounted for 40 percent of fatal workplace injuries in 2014. Within the transportation event category, roadway incidents constituted 57 percent of the fatal work injury total in 2014. The second largest number of transportation fatalities in 2014 involved pedestrian/vehicular incidents (17 percent).

Fatal work injuries due to violence and other injuries by persons or animals were lower in 2014, with 749 deaths in 2014 compared to 773 in 2013. The number of workplace homicides was about the same as the total in 2013, but workplace suicides decreased slightly in 2014, from 282 to 271. Among the workplace homicides in which women were the victims, the majority of assailants were relatives or domestic partners (32 percent of those homicides). In workplace homicides involving men, robbers were the most common type of assailant (33 percent). 

Fatal falls, slips and trips were up 10 percent in 2014 from the previous year. Falls to lower level were up nine percent to 647 from 595 in 2013, and falls on the same level increased 17 percent. In 532 of the 647 fatal falls to lower level, the height of the fall was known. Of those cases in which the height of fall was known, four-fifths involved falls of 30 feet or less (427) while about two-thirds (340) involved falls of 20 feet or less. 

Work-related injury deaths due to contact with objects and equipment were down slightly from the revised 2013 number (721 to 708). The largest proportion of fatal injuries in this category (34 percent) occurred when workers were struck by falling objects or equipment. The next largest share (28 percent) involved injuries in which workers were struck by powered vehicles in non-transport situations (e.g., struck by a rolling vehicle or by a vehicle that had tipped over while on jacks). 

Fatal work injuries due to fires decreased 35 percent from 82 in 2013 to 53 in 2014. Fatal injuries resulting from explosions, however, increased 25 percent to 84 cases, led by an increase in explosions of pressure vessels, piping or tires. 

A total of 372 workers were killed in 163 multiple fatality incidents (events where more than one worker was killed).

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