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2020 Workers' Memorial Day - Fatal Occupational Injuries


Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) 50 years ago, promising every worker the right to a safe job. Unions, worker advocates, and other allies have fought hard to make that promise a reality—winning protections that have made jobs safer and saved lives. We still, however, have work to do. Each year, thousands of workers are killed, and millions more suffer injury or illness because of inadequate employer protections and needless exposure to workplace hazards, some of which go unreported. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracks reported worker injuries and illnesses and details the findings in a summary report every year called the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII) and the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI). The most recently published data findings from the BLS reports are detailed below.

Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) Summary, 2018[i]

There were 5,250 fatal work injuries recorded in the United States in 2018, a 2 percent increase from the 5,147 in 2017. The fatal work injury rate remained unchanged at 3.5 per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers. 

Types of Workplace Incidents:

  • Transportation incidents remained the most frequent type of fatal event at 2,080, accounting for 40 percent of all work-related fatalities.

  • Incidents involving contact with objects and equipment increased 13 percent (from 695 to 786), driven by a 39 percent increase in workers caught in running equipment or machinery and a 17 percent increase in workers struck by falling objects or equipment.

  • Unintentional overdoses due to nonmedical use of drugs or alcohol while at work increased 12 percent from 272 to 305. This is the sixth consecutive annual increase.

  • Violence and other injuries by persons or animals increased 3 percent in 2018, due to an 11 percent increase in work-related suicides from 275 to 304. 

  • Fatal falls, slips, and trips decreased 11 percent to 791, after reaching a series high of 887 in 2017. This decline was due to a 14 percent drop in falls to a lower level (713 to 615), the lowest total since 2013.

Occupations with the Highest Injury Rates:

  • Driver/sales workers and truck drivers had the most fatalities of any broad occupation group at 966. 

  • Among all detailed occupations, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers had the most fatalities at 831. 

  • In 2018, logging workers, fishers and related fishing workers, aircraft pilots and flight engineers, and roofers all had fatality rates more than ten times the all-worker rate of 3.5 fatalities per 100,000 FTE workers.

  • Police and sheriff’s patrol officers had 108 fatalities in 2018, up 14 percent from 2017. 

  • Fatal injuries to taxi drivers and chauffeurs declined by 24 percent to 47, the lowest total since 2003, when comparable data for the occupation were first available. 

Other Key Findings from the CFOI Report:

  • Fatalities to non-Hispanic Black or African American workers increased 16 percent to 615 in 2018, the highest total since 1999. Their fatal injury rate also increased from 3.2 per 100,000 FTE workers in 2017 to 3.6 in 2018.

  • Hispanic or Latino workers experienced 961 fatalities in 2018, a 6 percent increase from 2017. Sixty-seven percent of fatally-injured Hispanic or Latino workers were born outside of the United States. 

  • Though the number of fatalities declined for workers age 65 years and over in 2018, their fatal work-injury rate is still more than double the all-worker rate. 

  • A total of 20 states and the District of Columbia had fewer fatal injuries in 2018 than 2017, while 28 states had more; Arkansas and Oklahoma had the same number as 2017. 

Nonfatal Workplace Injury and Illness (SOII report), 2018

There were 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private industry employers in 2018, unchanged from 2017. The incidence rate for total recordable cases (TRC) in private industry also remained unchanged from a year ago. This is the first year since 2012 that the TRC rate did not decline. The incidence rates for days away from work (DAFW) cases and for days of job transfer and restriction only (DJTR) cases did not change from 2017. Of the 900,380 DAFW cases in private industry, 333,830 (37 percent) required a visit to a medical facility. Of these, 294,750 required a trip to the emergency room and did not require hospitalization, and 39,080 cases required in-patient hospitalization, either with or without an E.R. visit.