The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) conducts annual studies regarding the cause of workplace fatalities in the United States. These annual studies review the cause of the fatalities, the characteristics of the people killed, and their occupation/industry.
The BLS also distributes the figures according to state. These figures are used by various government and private entities to improve worker safety. They are used to design outreach programs and safety seminars that improve worker safety in a variety of targeted industries.
The Study by the Numbers
In 2014, there were 164 fatal injuries in the workplace. The largest share, 59 fatalities, occurred in transportation incidents. The next largest share, 31 fatalities, resulted from contact with objects and equipment and due to violence and other injuries by persons or animals. Slips, falls and trips accounted for 30 additional fatalities, which is substantially similar to the other categories.
The study also breaks down fatalities based upon the occupation/industry. According to the BLS, “goods-producing” industries account for a significant portion of workplace fatalities. However, “goods producing” merely refers to any industry that produces a tangible product. The BLS further breaks down these figures and found that agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industries account for 26 fatalities and construction accounts for another 28 fatalities. Combined these two industries account for 54 fatalities or around 30 percent of all workplace fatalities.
The service sector accounts for the largest contributor of workplace fatalities at 85 fatalities. This result is expected because the service sector is the largest employer. The BLS found that trade, transportation, and utilities account for the single largest share, with 55 fatalities. Transportation and warehousing are another large contributors, at 33 fatalities.
The study also breaks down the fatalities by age group. Unsurprisingly, middle-aged and older workers accounted for the vast majority of fatalities. Ages 45 to 54 accounted for the largest share of fatalities at 47 whereas workers aged 20 to 24 only accounted for 9. This likely reflects the ability of younger workers to recover from injuries.
This study illustrates that physically demanding positions are at the highest risk of workplace fatalities. It shows that greater emphasis on training and safety is required to get these numbers as close to zero as possible. However, there is no magic bullet that will completely eliminate workplace fatalities. No amount of safety programs and seminars can eliminate the benefit of remaining alert.