Safety and OSHA News

Death on the job: Still much more to do

The good news: An estimated 553,000 workers’ lives have been saved since the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. The bad news … 

Almost 5,000 workers are still killed on the job each year due to injuries, and another estimated 50,000 to 60,000 die from occupational illnesses.

The 26th annual Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, produced by the AFL-CIO, tallies occupational injuries, illnesses and deaths for the most recent year complete U.S. statistics are available, 2015. The organization releases the report each year to correspond with Workers’ Memorial Day, April 28.

Among the findings for 2015:

  • 4,836 workers were killed on the job in the U.S.
  • Nearly 3.7 million work-related injuries and illnesses were reported
  • The fatality rate was 3.4 per 100,000 workers
  • The Latino fatality rate was 4.0, which is 18% higher than the national average
  • 67% of Latino employees killed were immigrant workers
  • Workers 65 or older have more than 2.5 times the risk of dying on the job as other workers, with a fatality rate of 9.4
  • 937 construction workers were killed, the most in any sector
  • The fatality rate for transportation and warehousing workers was also high: 13.8
  • Agriculture, fishing and forestry was the most dangerous sector, with a fatality rate of 22.8
  • Safety is improving in the mining and extractions sector, with the fatality rate at a record low
  • 703 worker deaths were caused by workplace violence, which is a growing problem
  • The cost of job injuries and illnesses is estimated to be between $250 billion and $360 billion a year
  • Federal OSHA has enough inspectors to inspect workplaces once every 159 years
  • For state OSHAs, it’s once every 99 years, and
  • Only 93 worker death cases have been criminally prosecuted under the Occupational Safety and Health Act since 1970.

The report also highlighted the states with the highest worker fatality rates:

  • North Dakota: 12.5 per 100,000 workers
  • Wyoming: 12.0
  • Montana: 7.5
  • Mississippi: 6.8
  • Arkansas: 5.8, and
  • Louisiana: 5.8.

The report says there’s much more that needs to be done regarding occupational safety. It calls for:

  • new OSHA rules on silica and beryllium exposure
  • new rules on infectious disease exposure, combustible dust and chemical safety
  • emphasis on decreasing the injury and death rates among the Latino, immigrant and aging populations, and
  • passage by Congress of the Protecting America’s Workers Act which aims to extend the OSH Act’s coverage to all government workers and strengthen civil and criminal penalties for violations.
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