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U.S. Workplace Deaths Reach Highest Level Since 2010

December 19, 2017
The BLS reported an uptick in U.S. workplace deaths in 2016. Image courtesy of Flickr user mwichary
The BLS reported an uptick in U.S. workplace deaths in 2016. Image courtesy of Flickr user mwichary

The rate of fatal occupational injuries in reported in U.S. workplaces in 2016 reached its highest level since 2010, according to new data released Tuesday from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Last year the occupational fatality rate climbed by 7% from 3.4 per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers in 2015 to 3.6 per 100,000 in 2016, the largest rate since 2010.

5190 fatal work injuries were recorded by the agency’s Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (COFI) in 2016. BLS researchers said the figures represent the third consecutive annual expansion of workplace fatalities and the first time since 2008 that the figure has exceeded 5000 deaths.

“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 U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said in a statement responding to the new data.

“OSHA will work to address these trends through enforcement, compliance assistance, education and training, and outreach,” the release stated.

The occupational safety regulator placed some blame for the rise in workplace deaths last year on America’s opioid drug crisis.

“As President Trump recognized by declaring opioid abuse a National Public Health Emergency, the nation’s opioid crisis is impacting Americans every day at home and, as this data demonstrates, increasingly on the job,” OSHA's release stated.

“The Department of Labor will work with public and private stakeholders to help eradicate the opioid crisis as a deadly and growing workplace issue.”

The leading cause of worker deaths was identified by the BLS as transportation-related incidents, which made up nearly one in four fatal injuries in 2016. Contact with objects or equipment accounted for 761 fatalities in 2016 made up 14% of fatal workplace injuries. 217 deaths from overdoses in American workplaces made up 4.18% of all fatal occupational injuries documented last year. Slips, trips, and falls took 849 lives, about 16.3% of all deaths during the period.

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