13 Workers a Day Die on the Job…Not Including Work-Related Diseases
Tuesday, May 08, 2012
Crab Fishing in Alaska (photo: Crook, withfriendship.com)
The American workplace is not as safe as it could be. Every day in the United States, 13 people are killed on the job, about 137 die from occupational diseases and at least 10,000 suffer workplace injuries or illnesses, according to data recently released for 2010 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The total of 4,690 Americans who died due to traumatic injuries at work in 2010 represented an increase over the 4,551 deaths reported in 2009, and yielded a rate of fatal injuries for 2010 of 3.6 per 100,000 workers, compared to 3.5 per 100,000 workers in 2009.
Largely because of the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine explosion, which killed 29 miners, West Virginia had the highest fatality rate in the country at 13.1 fatalities per 100,000 workers, followed by Wyoming and Alaska, while New Hampshire had the lowest fatality rate, at 0.9 per 100,000, followed by Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Workers in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting faced the highest fatality rate, at 27.9 per 100,000, followed by mining and transportation and warehousing. Latino workers face a fatality rate 8 percent higher than the national average, with 62 percent of fatal injuries to Latino workers found among workers born outside the United States.
Since the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, which created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the fatality rate has plummeted, from 18 deaths per 100,000 workers to only 3.6 today, saving more than 451,000 workers’ lives. Compared to other advanced, industrialized nations, however, the fatality rate in the U.S. shows great room for improvement. According to data from the International Labor Organization (ILO), a U.N. body headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, the U.S. fatality rate of 3.6 is worse than that of Australia, which has a rate of only 2.1, Canada (2.7), Estonia (3.2), Finland (1.7), France (2), Germany (2.04), Hungary (2.99), Ireland (2.5), Norway (2), Spain (3.3) and Sweden (1.5). The U.S. bests the rates of Austria (4), Czech Republic (3.8), Italy (4), Poland (4.5), Russia (10.9), Slovakia (4), and Ukraine (8).
Part of the reason may be that the U.S. commits few resources to workplace safety. OSHA and the state-level OSHA agencies have a total of 2,178 inspectors to inspect the 8 million workplaces under their jurisdiction. Federal OSHA can inspect workplaces on average once every 131 years; the state OSHA plans can inspect them once every 73 years. The current level of federal and state OSHA inspectors provides one inspector for every 58,687 workers, much lower than the ILO standard of 1 for every 10,000 workers.
BLS released the data only three days before Workers’ Memorial Day (April 28), which is a day to remember workers who were killed, injured, or made ill at work and to highlight danger in the workplace.
To Learn More:
National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2010 (Bureau of Labor Statistics) (pdf)
Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect (AFL-CIO) (pdf)
Most Dangerous Jobs…Fishing and Logging Workers (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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