Statistics released yesterday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed that workplace fatalities declined by less than one percent in 2017. The BLS’ 2017 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries noted that 5,147 fatal injuries were reported last year, as compared to 5,190 in 2016. The fatality rate among full-time workers was also down slightly: 3.5 deaths per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers from 3.6 the previous year.

However, the number of workers killed in falls; confined spaces; health care and social services; and mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction all rose sharply. Some 887 workers died in falls – the most in 26 years. Confined spaces deaths increased by 15 percent, Fatalities in health care and social services rose from 117 to 146 - a 25% increase - and fatalities in the mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction industry jumped by 26 percent to 112 in 2017.

Among the demographics hardest hit, according to the Census:

  • Older workers accounted for fifteen percent of those killed on the job last year
  • Older workers in agriculture and ranching were especially at risk. Two-thirds of the 258 killed in that sector last year were over 65, and 48 of them were more than 80 years old
  • Hispanic or Latino worker fatalities increased by 2.7 percent in 2017, to 903.

There were decreases in deaths caused by:

  • Workplace violence
  • Cranes
  • Workers getting caught in machinery

“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 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.”