Workplace fatalities are on the rise, even among maintenance professionals — find out why

by Brianna Crandall — December 29, 2017 — The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2016 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) reports there were 5,190 workplace fatalities in 2016, a 7% increase from 2015. The fatal injury rate also increased from 3.4 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers in 2015 to 3.6 in 2016. This is the third consecutive increase in annual workplace fatalities, and the first time more than 5,000 fatalities have been recorded since 2008.

Fatal occupational injuries by type of incident

  • More workers lost their lives in transportation incidents than any other event in 2016, accounting for about two out of every five (40%) fatal injuries.
  • Workplace violence injuries increased by 23%, making it the second most common cause of workplace fatality. Specifically, workplace homicides increased by 83 cases to 500 in 2016, and workplace suicides increased by 62 to 291 — the highest homicide figure since 2010 and the most suicides since CFOI began reporting data in 1992.
  • Fatal occupational injuries from falls, slips, or trips continued a general upward trend that began in 2011, increasing 6% to 849 in 2016 and 25% overall since 2011. Falls increased more than 25% in 2016 for roofers, carpenters, tree trimmers and pruners, and heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers.
  • Workplace fatalities due to exposure to harmful substances or environments rose 22%. Of specific concern, the number of overdoses from the non-medical use of drugs such as opioids or alcohol while on the job increased by 32% in 2016, and the number of fatalities has increased by at least 25% annually since 2012.
  • Fatal work injuries from fires and explosions fortunately declined 27%.

Loren Sweatt, Deputy Assistant Secretary for OSHA, issued the following statement regarding the report:

Today’s occupational fatality data show a tragic trend with the third consecutive increase in worker fatalities in 2016 – the highest since 2008. America’s workers deserve better. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is committed to finding new and innovative ways of working with employers and employees to improve workplace safety and health. OSHA will work to address these trends through enforcement, compliance assistance, education and training, and outreach.

As President Trump recognized by declaring opioid abuse a Nationwide Public Health Emergency, the nation’s opioid crisis is impacting Americans every day at home and, as this data demonstrates, increasingly on the job. The Department of Labor will work with public and private stakeholders to help eradicate the opioid crisis as a deadly and growing workplace issue.

Fatal occupational injuries by occupation

  • In 2016, fatal injuries among transportation and material moving occupations increased by 7% to 1,388, the highest count since 2007 and accounting for more than one-quarter of all work-related fatalities.
  • Occupations with increases greater than 10% in the number of fatal work injuries in 2016 include food preparation and serving related occupations (64%); installation, maintenance, and repair occupations (20%); building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations (14%); and sales and related occupations (11%).
  • Declines greater than 10% in the number of fatal occupational injuries in 2016 include healthcare practitioners and technical occupations (19%), military occupations (15%), and production occupations (14%).
  • A number of occupations recorded their highest fatality counts in 2016 since CFOI adopted the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system in 2003. This includes first-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workers, with 134 fatal injuries; landscaping and groundskeeping workers, 125; roofers, 101; tree trimmers and pruners, 84; driver/sales workers, 71; automotive service technicians and mechanics, 64; and farmworkers, farm, ranch, and aquacultural workers, 61.
  • Fatal work injuries among protective service occupations increased by 68 fatalities (32%) in 2016 to a total of 281. This included an increase of 24 fatalities among police officers, 13 fatalities among first-line supervisors/managers of law enforcement workers, and 23 fatalities among miscellaneous protective service workers, including crossing guards and lifeguards, ski patrol, and other recreational protective service workers. Police officers incurred 51 homicides in 2016, up 50% from 34 fatalities in 2015.
  • The number of workplace fatalities in private industry in general increased 7% in 2016. This was led by an increase in service-providing industries, which were up 13% to 2,702 from 2,399.
  • Fatal occupational injuries to government workers increased 9% overall to 497, with a 9% decrease in federal employee fatalities that was more than offset by increases in state and local government fatalities, up 20% and 13%, respectively.

For more BLS Census results, see the BLS announcement and the inaugural interactive charts for the Census on the Bureau of Labor Statistics Web site.