By James L. Curtis, Adam R. Young, and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis:  The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently released its annual National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (National Census), concluding that the fatal work injury rate in 2018 remained at 3.5 per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers. 

Commenting on the BLS National Census, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt noted that “OSHA will continue to use BLS data for enforcement targeting within its jurisdiction to help prevent tragedies.”  “Inspections for OSHA were up, and we will work with state plans so employers and workers can find compliance assistance tools in many forms or call the agency to report unsafe working conditions.  Any fatality is one too many.”

In summarizing fatalities overall, the BLS found compared to 2017 statistics:

  • Transportation incidents remained the most frequent type of fatal event accounting for 40 percent of all work-related fatalities.
  • Incidents involving contact with objects and equipment increased 13 percent, driven by a 39 percent increase in workers caught in running equipment or machinery and a 17 percent increase in workers struck by falling objects or equipment.
  • Unintentional overdoses due to nonmedical use of drugs or alcohol while at work increased 12 percent.
  • Violence and other injuries by persons or animals increased 3 percent, due to an 11 percent increase in work-related suicides.
  • Fatal falls, slips, and trips decreased 11 percent, due to a 14 percent drop in falls to a lower level.

In focusing on industry-wide fatalities the BLS found that:

  • Driver/sales workers and truck drivers had the most fatalities of any broad occupation group. Among all detailed occupations, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers had the most fatalities.
  • Pilots and flight engineers, and roofers all had fatality rates more than 10 times the all-worker rate of 3.5 fatalities per 100,000 FTE workers.
  • Fatal injuries to taxi drivers and chauffeurs declined by 24 percent, the lowest total since 2003 when comparable data for the occupation were first available.

Demographically, the BLS found that:

  • Fatalities to non-Hispanic Black or African American workers increased 16 percent in 2018, the highest total since 1999. Their fatal injury rate also increased from 3.2 per 100,000 FTE workers in 2017 to 3.6 in 2018.
  • Hispanic or Latino workers experienced a 6 percent increase from 2017. Sixty-seven percent of fatally-injured Hispanic or Latino workers were born outside of the United States.
  • Though the number of fatalities declined for workers age 65 years and over in 2018, their fatal work-injury rate is still more than double the all-worker rate.
  • 20 states and the District of Columbia had fewer fatal injuries in 2018 than 2017, while 28 states had more.

As unemployment has plummeted, we have seen increased numbers of younger and older retirement-age workers in the workplace, with corresponding occurrences of injuries to these workers.  It is essential that employers properly train employees and strictly enforce all safety rules.

For more information on this or any related topic, please contact your authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Workplace Safety and Health (OSHA/MSHA) Team.