Death on the Job: 2017 Fatality Numbers Released

Jordan Barab

Jordan Barab Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor, OSHA

The Bureau of Labor Statistics today released its 2017 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries— and it contained good news and bad news. 

The good news is that workplace fatalities fell slightly, less than 1% last year from 5,190 fatal injuries reported in 2016 to 5,147 last year. The fatality rate also declined slightly from 3.6 to 3.5 deaths per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers.

That bad news is that still means more than 14 workers are killed on the job every day in this country (in addition to the roughly 135 who die each day from diseases related to work like silicosis, black lung and asbestos-related disease.)

According to the AFL-CIO’s Peg Seminario,

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. 

Instead of increasing life-saving measures aimed at protecting working people at their workplaces, the Trump administration is rolling back existing safety and health rules and has failed to move forward on any new safety and health protections.

Most of these job deaths were preventable, caused by well-recognized hazards.

The other troubling parts of today’s report were:

  • The number of workers killed in falls climbed to their highest level in the 26-year history of the BLS survey, accounting for 887, or 17 percent of all worker deaths.
  • Workplace deaths involving confined spaces rose 15 percent to 166 in 2017 from 144 in 2016.
  • The number of older workers killed on the job — 65 and older — reached a new record. Fifteen percent of the fatally-injured workers in 2017 were age 65 or over. In 1992, the first year CFOI published national data, that figure was 8 percent. 
  • 258 farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers were killed in 2017 and almost two-thirds of those were age 65. Forty-eight were over 80 years old.
  • The number of workplace deaths among Hispanic or Latino workers rose 2.7% to 903 in 2017, after falling 3% last year.
  • Workplace violence deaths were down last year, but violence-related deaths remain the 3rd leading cause of death in the workplace.
  • Fatalities in health care and social services rose from 117 to 146, a 25% increase.
  • Workplace fatalities in the private mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction industry increased 26 percent to 112 in 2017. Fatalities in the industry had reached an all time low in 2016. Over 70 percent of these fatalities were incurred by workers in the oil and gas extraction industries.
  • Alaska and North Dakota had the highest fatality rates. North Dakota’s rose. The number of deaths in North Dakota rose 36% last year after dropping 40% last year.
  • Deaths from unintentional overdoses due to non-medical drugs or alcohol while at work increased 25 percent.  272 workers died on the job last year from accidental overdoses, a staggering 318 percent increase since 2012 when only 65 unintentional overdose deaths were reported. This was the fifth consecutive year that unintentional workplace overdose deaths increased by at least 25 percent.

Other good news includes

  • Crane-related workplace fatalities fell to their lowest level ever, possibly due to OSHA’s release of its Cranes and Derricks standard several years ago.
  • The number of workers killed getting caught in running equipment or machinery declined 26.2%. to 76 deaths.

And according to OSHA:

“While today’s report shows a decline in the number of workplace fatalities, the loss of even one worker is too many,” said Loren Sweatt, Acting Assistant Secretary for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). “Through comprehensive enforcement and compliance assistance that includes educating job creators about their responsibilities under the law, and providing robust education opportunities to workers, OSHA is committed to ensuring the health and safety of the American workforce.”

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Reposted from Confined Space

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Federal Minimum Wage Reaches Disappointing Milestone

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

A disgraceful milestone occurred last Sunday, June 16.

That date officially marked the longest period that the United States has gone without increasing federal the minimum wage.

That means Congress has denied raises for a decade to 1.8 million American workers, that is, those workers who earn $7.25 an hour or less. These 1.8 million Americans have watched in frustration as Congress not only denied them wages increases, but used their tax dollars to raise Congressional pay. They continued to watch in disappointment as the Trump administration failed to keep its promise that the 2017 tax cut law would increase every worker’s pay by $4,000 per year.

More than 12 years ago, in May 2007, Congress passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. It took effect two years later. Congress has failed to act since then, so it has, in effect, now imposed a decade-long wage freeze on the nation’s lowest income workers.

To combat this unjust situation, minimum wage workers could rally and call their lawmakers to demand action, but they’re typically working more than one job just to get by, so few have the energy or patience.

The Economic Policy Institute points out in a recent report on the federal minimum wage that as the cost of living rose over the past 10 years, Congress’ inaction cut the take-home pay of working families.  

At the current dismal rate, full-time workers receiving minimum wage earn $15,080 a year. It was virtually impossible to scrape by on $15,080 a decade ago, let alone support a family. But with the cost of living having risen 18% over that time, the situation now is far worse for the working poor. The current federal minimum wage is not a living wage. And no full-time worker should live in poverty.

While ignoring the needs of low-income workers, members of Congress, who taxpayers pay at least $174,000 a year, are scheduled to receive an automatic $4,500 cost-of-living raise this year. Congress increased its own pay from $169,300 to $174,000 in 2009, in the middle of the Great Recession when low income people across the country were out of work and losing their homes. While Congress has frozen its own pay since then, that’s little consolation to minimum wage workers who take home less than a tenth of Congressional salaries.

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A Friendly Reminder

A Friendly Reminder