Work is getting more dangerous in the US. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, there were 5,250 fatal work injuries recorded in the United States in 2018, a 2 percent increase from the 5,147 in 2017.
The fatal work injury rate remained unchanged at 3.5 per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers. These data are from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI).
Fatal event or exposure
Transportation incidents remained the most frequent type of fatal event at 2,080, accounting for 40 percent of all work-related fatalities.
Incidents involving contact with objects and equipment increased 13 percent (from 695 to 786), 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 from 272 to 305. This is the sixth consecutive annual increase.
Violence and other injuries by persons or animals increased 3 percent in 2018, due to an 11 percent increase in work-related suicides from 275 to 304.
Fatal falls, slips, and trips decreased 11 percent to 791, after reaching a series high of 887 in 2017. This decline was due to a 14 percent drop in falls to a lower level (713 to 615), the lowest total since 2013.
Driver/sales workers and truck drivers had the most fatalities of any broad occupation group at 966. Among all detailed occupations, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers had the most fatalities at 831.
In 2018, logging workers, fishers and related fishing workers, aircraft 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. (See chart 4.)
Police and sheriff’s patrol officers had 108 fatalities in 2018, up 14 percent from 2017.
Fatal injuries to taxi drivers and chauffeurs declined by 24 percent to 47, the lowest total since 2003 when comparable data for the occupation were first available.
In 2016, the CFOI began identifying fatal injuries to independent workers. Independent workers are involved in a work relationship that is finite and involves a single task, short-term contract, or freelance work.
In 2018, there were 621 fatal injuries to independent workers, up from 613 in 2017.
Independent workers comprised 12 percent of all fatal injuries in 2018.
Occupations with the most fatal work injuries to independent workers in 2018 were heavy and tractor trailer-truck drivers (96), followed by first-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workers (61), and construction laborers.
Fatalities to non-Hispanic Black or African American workers increased 16 percent to 615 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 961 fatalities in 2018, 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.
A total of 20 states and the District of Columbia had fewer fatal injuries in 2018 than 2017, while 28 states had more; Arkansas and Oklahoma had the same number as 2017.
Jon L. Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters). For over 4 decades the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman 1.973.696.7900 firstname.lastname@example.org has been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.