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BLS Releases 2017 Workplace Fatal Injuries Data

By Christine Torres

Safety signage on industrial machine

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics has just released its report on fatal occupational injuries for 2017. The purpose of these annual reports is to help safety and health policy analysts and researchers find ways to prevent fatal work injuries and highlight hazards that threaten lives. Employers and workers can then use that information from the census to enhance job safety training and utilize safety best practices.

Workplace Injury Concerns

According to the BLS report, 5,147 U.S. workers died from a work-related injury in 2017. Most of the causes for the injuries were preventable, but the total was down slightly from 5,190 in 2016’s report. The fatal injury rate was 3.5 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, also down from 3.6 in 2016. The top causes for injury were:

  • Transportation incidents (2,077)
  • Slips, trips, and falls (887) - an increase from 2016.
  • Violence (807)
  • Contacts with objects or equipment (695)
  • Exposure to harmful substances or environments (531) – an increase from 2016, mostly attributed to an increase in fatal workplace drug overdoses.
  • Fires and explosions (123)

The occupations with the highest workplace fatalities rates were:

  • Fishers (41)
  • Loggers (55)
  • Aircraft pilots and flight engineers (59)
  • Roofers (91)
  • Recyclers/Waste collectors (30)
  • Iron and steel workers (14)
  • Truck and other drivers (987)
  • Farmers (258)
  • Landscapers (53)
  • Electrical power-line installers and repairers (26)

“While today’s report shows a decline in the number of workplace fatalities, the loss of even one worker is too many,” said Loren Sweatt, acting assistant secretary for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). “Through comprehensive enforcement and compliance assistance that includes educating job creators about their responsibilities under the law, and providing robust education opportunities to workers, OSHA is committed to ensuring the health and safety of the American workforce.”

To help break down this information, think about this: There were 260 workdays in 2017. That means, on average, every workday of 2017 saw one American killed at work; another two killed at work by someone else; and one more killed by an unintentional overdose of alcohol or nonmedical drugs. Every workday.

Improve Workplace Safety

Chart shows death average for 2017

Improvements to workplace safety are ongoing. Safety’s successes are measured through national data, and in analyzing the BLS data, improvements to road safety and other potential causes for workplace injury can be seen. Key components to building a safer workplace include effective communication. Facilities can provide workers with memorable training, using visuals such as videos, infographics, and other supportive material. Have strong, up-to-date policies and procedures in place to prevent a further increase in injuries such as slips, trips, and falls and to assist in eliminating careless exposure to harmful substances. Reinforce training and policies through bold signage and labeling. Ensure weight limits, usage details and important information are included on ladder labels. Increase pedestrian and forklift worker walking and surface awareness with highly visible signs, labels, and floor markings for wayfinding.

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