Deadly Territory: Fatal Injuries in the Workplace
Falls accounted for nearly 40 percent of fatal work injuries in construction in 2015
Fatal injuries in the workplace are on the rise, according to the latest data from the U.S. Dept. of Labor (DOL).
Figures from the department’s annual census of fatal occupational injuries show a slight increase in the number of work injuries from previous years, and the most since 2008. The census measured data captured in 2015, the last year numbers were available.
The data indicates that 4,836 workers died from work-related injuries in 2015, an increase from the 4,821 fatal injuries reported in 2014. Based on the results, the rate of fatal workplace injuries in 2015 was 3.38 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, lower than the 2014 rate of 3.43, according to the DOL.
“These numbers underscore the urgent need for employers to provide a safe workplace for their employees as the law requires,” said outgoing U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez in a written statement. “We have a moral responsibility to make sure that workers who showed up to work today are still alive to punch the clock tomorrow.”
The total number of workplace fatalities is the highest since 5,214 deaths were reported in 2008. The most common cause of deadly incidents were traffic crashes, which were up 9 percent from 2014 and accounted for roughly 26 percent of on-the-job fatalities.
Fatal injuries in the private construction industry rose 4 percent in 2015 to 937 from 899 in 2014. It’s the highest total since 2008, the DOL noted. The increase was led primarily led by a surge in fatalities among specialty-trade contractors, including roofing contractors, though the rate for construction remained statistically unchanged. The largest increase among specialty trade contractors involved foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors. Their fatal injury total rose 27 percent to 231 fatalities in 2015 from 182 in 2014.
Numbers for 2016 won’t be available for another year and DOL officials collect and analyze their numbers. However, experts said they don’t expect the numbers to change significantly.
Falls remain among the leading causes of construction-related deaths, according the latest DOL report.
A fall to a lower level accounted for 81 percent of all fatal falls, the data showed. Of those cases where the height of the fall was known, more than two-fifths of fatal falls occurred from 15 feet or lower. Fatal falls to a lower level accounted for nearly 40 percent of fatal work injuries in the private construction industry in 2015, the DOL reported.
The fact is, we know how to prevent these deaths,” Perez said. “The U.S. Department of Labor is — and will always be — committed to working with employers, workers, community organizations, unions and others to improve safety and health in our nation’s workplaces. This effort is essential to ensuring that no more workers are taken unnecessarily from their families.”
The data also showed:
•Twenty-one states reported higher numbers of fatal injuries in 2015 than in 2014, while 29 states and the District of Columbia reported fewer fatalities.
•Six states — Alabama, Alaska, Indiana, Maine, Virginia, and West Virginia. — recorded fatal injury totals in 2015 at or below the lowest total they ever reported.
•Fatal injuries among building and grounds cleaning and maintenance workers rose 15 percent to 289 in 2015, a series high.
•Fatal injuries in the private manufacturing industry rose slightly in 2015 to 353 from 349 in 2014. Though the increase in manufacturing was small, the 2015 fatal injury total for manufacturing was the highest for that industry sector since 2008.