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Bureau of Labor Statistics Reports Increase in Fatal Injuries for 2015

By Sally Murdoch

Fatal workplace injuries increased in 2015 over 2014

In late December 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its annual record of American occupational fatalities. Called the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), this helpful but sobering report underscores the importance of safety. The latest census is particularly unsettling, showing that fatal injuries in the workplace rose from 2014 to 2015.

4,836 fatal work injuries were recorded in the U.S. in 2015, the highest number in seven years. Since the census began in 1992, the information has been compiled and broken down into categories such as occupation, gender, and cause of death. The data is then analyzed and released via press release.

Key Findings for 2015 Fatal Injuries, and Safety Considerations

Transportation Industry Workers

Transportation workers suffered the most fatal injuries in 2015, accounting for more than a quarter of all occupational fatalities. 26% of fatal occupational injuries in 2015 were roadway incidents, and these fatalities were up 9% from 2014 totals (1,264 fatalities). Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers recorded 745 of these fatal injuries, the most of any occupation. Almost half of these fatalities (629) involved a semi, tractor-trailer, or tanker truck.

Driver safety is paramount, and employers should do all they can to make drivers safe. Ensure your vehicles follow federal regulations, and consider the safety of everyone sharing the road. Prismatic tape can play an important role in keeping drivers and workers safe on U.S. highways. Graphic Products’ DuraLabel PRO 300 label and sign printer can be outfitted with prismatic tape to create custom signs for vehicles, which can be effective in low-light settings, such as nighttime driving.

Hispanic or Latino Workers

Multilingual safety signage is important for everyone's safety in the workplace

Fatal injuries involving Hispanic or Latino workers increased by almost 100 fatalities from 2014, incurring a total of 903 fatal injuries in 2015—the most since 2007 (937 fatalities). One clear takeaway: Hazard communication must be multilingual, and safety procedures must be clearly explained to crew members, contractors, and everyone at the jobsite or workplace.

Workers 65 and Older

Workers 65 and older incurred 650 fatal injuries, the second-largest number for this age group since the census began in 1992. The number represents a decrease from 2014 totals, when 684 workers 65 and older were killed on the job. Companies that employ a more mature workforce may want to assess their visual communication to ensure their safety labels and signage are clear and large enough so that everyone can read them.

In a broader sense, workers 45 and older accounted for 58% of workplace fatalities in 2015, yet this group accounted for only 45% of the total hours worked. Fatal injury rates were generally higher among older workers, at 9.4 fatalities per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers for those 65 and older, compared to fatalities among younger workers 25 to 34, at 2.3 per 100,000 FTE workers.

Construction Industry Fatalities

Construction is continually over-represented in fatality rates, especially among specialty trade contractors such as foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors, whose fatal injury rate jumped a staggering 27% to 231 fatal injuries in 2015 (up from 182 in 2014).

According to the 2015 census, “Fatal injuries among construction and extraction occupations rose by 2% to 924 cases in 2015—the highest level since 2008. Several construction occupations recorded their highest fatality total in years, including construction laborers (highest since 2008); carpenters (2009); electricians (2009); and plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters (2003). In contrast, fatal injuries among extraction workers were down sharply to 45 in 2015 from 88 in 2014.”

Fatal injuries in the private construction industry rose 4% in 2015 to 937 (up from 899 in 2014). The number of construction worker deaths hit its highest point since 2008 (975 deaths).

Silver Linings: Positive Movement in Fatality Rates

On the positive side, fatal injuries in the private oil and gas extraction industries were 38% lower in 2015 than in 2014, and represented the lowest totals since 2009. Similarly, the private mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction industry recorded fewer fatal injuries in 2015, dropping to 120 fatal injuries (down from 183 in 2014).

The census also found good news among the female workforce; while women accounted for 43% of the hours worked in 2015, they accounted for only 7% of the fatal injuries. This represents a small decline from recent years; the female workforce incurred 13% more fatal work injuries in 2014 than in 2013, accounting for 8% of all fatal occupational injuries in 2014. 

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