The motor vehicle towing industry has a higher rate of work-related injury and death compared to other industries, according to NIOSH research presented at the National Occupational Injury Research Symposium in Morgantown, West Virginia. Yet studies historically have focused on the safety of other first responders, including law enforcement officers, fire fighters, and emergency medical services workers.
To address this research gap, NIOSH investigators recently undertook one of the first national studies of nonfatal injuries and deaths in the motor-vehicle towing industry. Data for this study came from publicly available information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII) and Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) for the years 2011 through 2016. This study reported counts and rates of nonfatal injury and death in the motor vehicle towing industry. The rates for this industry were compared to the rates for all U.S. private industries.
|From 2011 through 2016, the motor vehicle industry reported a death rate more than 15 times the rate for all U.S. private industries.|
Nonfatal injuries and illnesses: Based on data from SOII for the years 2011 through 2016, there were 6,400 nonfatal injuries and illnesses in the motor vehicle towing industry that resulted in missed workdays. The rate for this industry was 204 per 10,000 full-time employees (FTEs), which was more than double the rate of 98 per 10,000 FTEs for all U.S. private industries. Most nonfatal injuries and illnesses occurred among white males between the ages of 35 and 44 years old. The leading causes of injuries were contact with objects and equipment, followed by overexertion and bodily reaction from bending, kneeling, crawling, or reaching. Most injuries involved sprains, strains, and tears.
Deaths: CFOI data from 2011 through 2016 reported 191 deaths in the motor vehicle towing industry. This number translates to an annual average fatality rate of nearly 43 deaths per 100,000 workers, more than 15 times the rate of 2.8 deaths per 100,000 workers for all U.S. private industries combined. Most deaths occurred among non-Hispanic white males between the ages of 45 and 54 years. More than half of the deaths occurred in companies that had 10 or fewer employees. The leading causes of death were motor vehicle incidents, followed by contact with objects and equipment. Motor vehicle incidents frequently involved workers on the side of the road being struck by passing vehicles.
Until now, nonfatal injuries and deaths in the motor vehicle towing industry have been largely overlooked. The findings from this study underscore the need for additional research and tailored prevention efforts.