OSHA Report: Workplace Injuries and Fatalities in 2019
Released in October 2019, the full extent of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Report is finally coming to light. Analysts have combed the report to make sense of the data and identify trends, and what they’ve found spans the gamut of reactions — from positive to starkly negative. There’s plenty to smile about in the new report, but there’s an equal amount of data that should concern factories striving to keep their workers and their workplace safe.
The report, which looks at the most recent workplace data from the 2018 calendar year, breaks down the full scope of workplace deaths and injuries by nature.
Workplace safety by the numbers
There were 5,250 fatal work injuries recorded in the United States in 2018, a 2% increase from 2017 (5,147). And although this may start the report on a sour note, it should be noted that the overall fatal work injury rate remains unchanged at 3.5 workers per 100,000 full-time employees. Essentially, although the number of injuries rose slightly, it remains the same as a portion of total workforce, which is growing at a faster rate.
- Transportation remains the leading cause of workplace fatalities, accounting for 40% (2,080) of all deaths.
- Deaths caused by contact with objects saw a 13% increase (from 695 to 786) — a number driven up by workers caught in running equipment or machinery.
- Overdoses and deaths due to nonmedical use of drugs or alcohol are now the sixth leading cause of workplace death (12%).
- Slips, trips, and falls decreased 11% year-over-year (713 to 615), marking the lowest level since 2013.
Diving into the trends
On a positive note, the reduction in slip and fall accidents marks a tremendous win for worker safety. OSHA has long made slip and fall accident prevention a priority. The double-digit percentage increase shows real effectiveness in mitigating these common problems.
Unfortunately, the numbers show that the opioid epidemic has crept into the manufacturing workforce in a big way. A double-digit percentage increase in drug-related deaths has warranted an emergency declaration by the government, and toolkits and initiatives are already being mobilized to fight addiction in the workplace.
Another concerning statistic buried deeper in the breakdown of worker fatalities is an 11% increase in at-work suicides (275 to 304). It’s unclear whether this figure is related to addiction rates, but it’s worrisome, nonetheless.
Looking at your own workplace
The analysis of workplace fatality data shows yet again the unexpected nature of workplace risks and hazards. Yet, with the right preparation and vigilance for worker safety, it’s possible for manufacturers to stay on the right side of OSHA standards, thereby mitigating the possibility of workplace fatalities.
- Understand the nature of OSHA’s most commonly reported fatalities and measure your facilities against them.
- Make sure safety protocols and standards are met, and that worker safety is at the forefront of every process and procedure.
- Take the time to participate in OSHA’s voluntary programs and ready yourself for the rise in inspections already slated for 2020.
Remember, it’s not about passing an OSHA inspection — it’s about cultivating a safe workplace with passing as a happy result.