The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, January 11, 2019

BLS: fatal job injuries declined by 1% in 2017

By The Building Tradesman

WASHINGTON (PAI)—The number and the rate of job injuries that killed workers both declined by 1 percent in 2017, compared to the year before, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. Some 5,147 workers died that year, a BLS survey calculated, or 3.5 per 100,000 workers.

But don’t tell that to truckers, construction workers, or workers in Alaska, the Dakotas, Wyoming, Louisiana, Mississippi or – at least in sheer numbers – New York City. 

All those states led the nation in the rate of number of workers killed by job injuries, per 100,000 workers, last year.  Alaska and North Dakota tied in the state fatality rates, with 10.1 dead workers per 100,000.

New York City was far safer, with only 2.3 workers per 100,000 killed in 2017, but the absolute number of deaths there rose from 56 in 2016 to 87 in 2017, according to new numbers released in December.

And don’t tell the nation’s truckers or construction workers. Trucking set a new record with 599 deaths from on-the-job injuries, up from 570 the year before. Their 2017 death rate was 28 deaths per 100,000 drivers. 

Some 747 construction workers died on the job in 2017, more than in any other occupation, and up from 736 in 2016. 

In Michigan, in all industries there were 153 on-the-job deaths in 2017, down from 162 in 2016 but up from 134 in 2015.

Don’t tell Peg Seminario, the veteran director of the AFL-CIO’s Occupational Safety and Health Department, that the report had much good news, either. 

Most of the deaths from on-the-job injuries “were preventable, caused by well-recognized hazards” which employers, with little effort, could have avoided, she said. 

“There was a small decline in the number and rate of job deaths, 5,147 workers lost their lives on the job,” she said, down from 5,190. But “that is an average of 14 workers dying each and every day. This does not include the deaths from occupational diseases like black lung and silicosis, which are on the rise.

“Today’s sobering report comes at a time when the number of Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors is at the lowest point in decades and the Mine Safety and Health Administration inspection force has dwindled,” she added.

Some other notes from the BLS:

*Deaths from falls reached record high levels (887). Deaths from confined spaces (166) increased by 15 percent. Deaths among Latino workers (903) increased after declining in 2016.

*Fatalities among older workers (65 and older) were at an all-time high with 775 workers in this age group killed on the job, experiencing a job fatality rate three times the national average.

The opioid epidemic is hitting worksites hard. There were 272 deaths last year at work from “unintentional overdoses of drugs or alcohol at work,” the BLS said. That’s up 25 percent from a year before. BLS reported 2017 was the fifth straight year of a 25+ percent hike in drug and alcohol overdose deaths.