The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released its annual National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, with the report showing a slight decline in deaths resulting from accidents in the workplace last year.
In total, the survey found 5,147 fatal work injuries were reported in the United States in 2017, which is 43 fewer than the 5,190 fatal injuries recorded in 2016. That decrease translates to a fatal injury rate of 3.5 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers in 2017, down from 3.6 in 2016.
A full 40 percent of workplace deaths came from transportation-related fatalities, which decreased slightly to 2,077. Drivers and truckers accounted for 840 fatal injuries, the most of any occupation, while the highest rate of fatal injuries belonged to the farming, fishing and forestry industries, at 20.9 per 100,000 FTE workers.
With 303 deaths in the private manufacturing industry and 174 in the wholesale trade industry, both sectors accomplished their lowest fatality totals since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began recording that subset in 2003.
Despite the overall decline in deaths, certain types of fatal injuries rose last year.
For starters, there were 877 fatal falls recorded in 2017, the most ever since the census began in 1992. This number is perhaps less surprising when considering the fact that "Fall Protection - General Requirements" has been OSHA's most frequently cited violation for eight consecutive years.
Additionally, deaths related to unintentional overdoses from nonmedical drug or alcohol use on the job rose to 272, marking a 25 percent increase in a category that has now climbed by at least 25 percent every year for five consecutive years.
"Fatal injuries caused by drug overdoses and alcohol use increased by at least 25 percent for the fifth straight year."
"The scourge of opioid addiction unfortunately continues to take its toll on workers across the country, demonstrating the importance of this Administration's efforts to tackle this crisis," said Acting Assistant Secretary for OSHA Loren Sweatt in a statement.
After the private mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction industries experienced a record low of 89 deaths in 2016, worker fatalities in those fields rose to 112 last year, representing a 26 percent increase.
There were 775 deaths among workers age 65 and older in 2017, up 87 fatalities since the previous year. Those 65 and older made up 15 percent of all fatally injured workers, representing the highest proportion for that demographic ever in the 26-year history of the census.
With 534 fatalities, Texas had the highest number of worker deaths, followed by California with 376, New York with 313 and Florida with 299.
OSHA's statement on the release of the survey touted the decrease in overall fatalities, crane-related workplace fatalities and fatal occupational injuries in the private manufacturing industry and wholesale trade industries, while still emphasizing the need for further improvements.
"While today's report shows a decline in the number of workplace fatalities, the loss of even one worker is too many," Sweatt said. "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."
OSHA's statement also encouraged employers to take advantage of the agency's no-cost and confidential On-Site Consultation Program, and to receive education from OSHA Training Institute Education Centers located nationwide.
In a statement released the same day as the Bureau of Labor Statistics' report, AFL-CIO Director of Safety and Health Peg Seminario asked the incoming Congress to prioritize "strengthening job safety protections and preventing unnecessary worker deaths, injuries and diseases."