Just in time for Workers Memorial Day, a new report from the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health finds that the number of workers who died on the job is on the upswing. Based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Preventable Deaths 2016,” reports that 4,821 workers died on the job from traumatic events in the workplace in 2014, a 5.1% increase from 4,585 deaths in 2013.

National Cosh acting executive director Jessica Martinez said the figures are “a wake-up call” for everyone.

“All the evidence shows that we can save lives – by strong enforcement and worker-involved safety programs to prevent sudden deaths in the workplace, and by removing the long-term hazards that are slow, silent killers.”

Falls, slips and trips increased by 13 percent, which coincides with the status of OSHA’s fall protection standard as being the most violated workplace rule in the United States (7,402 citations were issued for violation of the standard in 2015).

Other key findings from the report:

  • There were 4,821 deaths on the job from traumatic events in 2014 --the most recent year for which data are available.
  • Fatalities increased in 2014 in the agriculture, construction, mining and manufacturing sectors
  • There were also more on-the-job deaths among older workers and temporary and contract workers
  • More than 95,000 U.S. workers died from long-term occupational diseases in 2008, according to a 2014 estimate by leading scholars and practitioners published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene. This estimated death toll from cancer as well as heart, lung, kidney and other diseases is much higher than previous estimates.
  • Cancer claims more lives than any other occupational disease in most countries. The disease can be prevented, writes safety engineerJukka Takala, president of the International Commission on Occupational Health, “by reducing or eliminating the exposures leading to the disease.”

Why have workplace deaths increased?

Martinez says additional study is needed, said Martinez, although available evidence indicates that the higher number of deaths is not linked to an upsurge in economic activity.

“Preventable Deaths 2016” also includes case reports of individual workers who died on the job drawn from the U.S. Worker Fatality Database, a cooperative effort by National COSH and partner organizations to compile names, faces and facts about workers who die on the job every year.

National COSH links the efforts of local worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States, advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace. For more information visit coshnetwork.org, follow them on Facebook (National Council for Occupational Safety and Health) and on Twitter: @NationalCOSH.