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Going to work is getting more dangerous

Workplace deaths have risen 3 straight years

Workplace fatalities rose 7 percent in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It was the third straight year that work-related deaths rose, after trending downward for many years.

Transportation accidents make up the greatest number of deaths, but workplace violence has skyrocketed and is now the No. 2 cause of workplace fatalities.

Disturbing trends in workplace fatalities

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has tracked workplace deaths since 1992. In all, there were 5,190 work-related fatalities in 2016.

  • Transportation incidents account for about two out of five fatal work injuries. A total of 2,083 people were killed in on-duty vehicle and heavy equipment accidents.
  • Fatalities from workplace violence (500 homicides and 291 suicides in the workplace) rose 23 percent.
  • Falling deaths (falls from heights and slip-and-falls) have risen 25 percent since 2011.
  • Workers age 55 and older have the highest fatality rate, and the ratio is climbing. They accounted for more than one-third of workplace deaths in 2016, compared to one-fifth in 1992.

Several occupations recorded the highest number of fatalities since category tracking began in 2003: construction site supervisors, landscapers/groundskeepers, roofers, tree trimmers, drivers/salespersons, auto mechanics, and farm/ranch/fisheries workers.

Will 2017 and 2018 stats be better or worse?

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) plans to address the alarming increase through enforcement of safety laws, assisting employers with compliance, and outreach such as education and training. However, there are two trends which may contribute to more fatalities:

  • First, the economy is running at near full employment, with construction booming. More people working in blue-collar jobs likely means more workplace accidents with fatal injuries.
  • Second, the current administration is repealing or scaling back enforcement of regulations viewed as hampering industry. This includes many safety regulations, which in turn would endanger more workers in high-risk occupations.

Be careful out there. Insist on safety protections that are guaranteed to you under state and federal laws. Even workers sometimes chafe at OSHA regulations, but those laws have saved thousands of lives since the agency was created in the 1970s.

In the event of a workplace injury or a family member's workplace death, contact a lawyer who handles both workers' compensation claims and third-party lawsuits.

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