The AFL-CIO’s just-released annual report on the state of safety and health protections for America’s workers tallied up millions of work-related injuries in 2016 that resulted in billions of dollars in costs to the economy and revealed that workplace violence is now the second leading cause of death while on the job in the U.S.
Death on the Job; The Toll of Neglect, 2018, is based on 2016 data and features state and national information on workplace fatalities, injuries, illnesses, the number and frequency of workplace inspections, penalties, funding, staffing and public employee coverage under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. It also includes information on the state of mine safety and health.
OSH Act was a turning point
In 1970, Congress enacted the OSH Act, promising workers in this country the right to a safe job.
“More than 579,000 workers now can say their lives have been saved since the passage of the OSH Act,” according to the union. “Since that time, workplace safety and health conditions have improved. But too many workers remain at serious risk of injury, illness or death as chemical plant explosions, major fires, construction collapses and other preventable workplace tragedies continue to occur. Workplace violence is a growing threat. Many other workplace hazards kill and disable thousands of workers each year.”
From the report:
- In 2016, 5,190 workers lost their lives on the job as a result of traumatic injuries. This does not include those workers who die from occupational diseases, estimated to be 50,000–60,000 each year.
- Chronic occupational diseases receive less attention because most are not detected for years after workers are exposed to toxic chemicals, and occupational illnesses often are misdiagnosed and poorly tracked. All total, on average at least 150 workers die each day due to job injuries and illnesses.
- In 2016, nearly 3.7 million workers across all industries, including state and local government, had work-related injuries and illnesses that were reported by employers, with 2.9 million injuries and illnesses reported in private industry. Due to limitations in the current injury reporting system and widespread underreporting of workplace injuries, this number understates the problem. The true toll is estimated to be two to three times greater—or 7.4 million to 11.1 million injuries and illnesses a year.
- The cost of these injuries and illnesses is enormous—estimated at $250 billion to $360 billion a year.
- The job fatality rate increased to 3.6 per 100,000 workers from 3.4 per 100,000 workers.
- Service-providing industries saw the largest increase in the job fatality rate, while the rate declined in manufacturing and mining and was unchanged in
- construction—all industries that receive the greatest OSHA or MSHA oversight.
States with the highest fatality rates in 2016 were:
- Wyoming (12.3 per 100,000 workers)
- Alaska (10.6 per 100,000 workers)
- Montana (7.9 per 100,000 workers)
- South Dakota (7.5 per 100,000 workers)
- North Dakota (7.0 per 100,000 workers)
Workplace violence a major factor
- Workplace violence deaths increased significantly in 2016:
- 866 worker deaths were caused by violence, an increase from 703.
- 500 worker deaths were workplace homicides.
- Violence was responsible for more than 27,000 lost-time injuries.
- Women workers are at greater risk of violence than men; they suffered two-thirds of the lost-time injuries related to workplace violence.
- There is no federal OSHA standard to protect workers from workplace violence; the Trump administration has sidelined an OSHA workplace violence standard.
The report notes a dramatic shift in the political landscape after the election of Donald Trump.
“The Trump administration has moved to weaken recently issued rules on beryllium and mine examinations and has delayed or abandoned the development of new protections, including regulations on workplace violence, infectious diseases, silica in mining and combustible dust.
“At the same time, Congress is pushing forward with numerous ‘regulatory reform’ bills that would require review and culling of existing rules, make costs the primary consideration in adopting regulations, and making it virtually impossible to issue new protections.”
The report concludes that the toll of workplace injury, disease and death remains too high. “Workers in the United States need more safety and health protection, not less. More than four decades after the passage of the OSH Act, there is much more work to be done.”