Many organizations commented on the recent Bureau of Labor Statistics’ report detailing increasing workplace fatalities. Here’s what some of them had to say:
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker
The “announcement by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of a one-year increase of nearly 9 percent in fatal work injuries serves as call to action for OSHA, employers and other stakeholders to redouble our collective efforts to make our nation’s workplaces safer.
“In 2021, 5,190 workers suffered fatal work injuries, equating to one worker death in the U.S. every 101 minutes, including 653 Black workers, whose fatality rate hit an all-time high. Black and Latino workers also had fatality rates disproportionately higher than their co-workers in 2021. These are deeply troubling facts.
“Each of these deaths cruelly impacts these workers’ families, friends, co-workers and communities. They are clear reminders of the important work that must be done. OSHA and its thousands of professionals across the nation are determined to enforce the law while working with employers, workers, labor unions, trade associations and other stakeholders to ensure that every worker in the U.S. ends their workday safely.”
National Safety Council
“The data included in this report indicate workplaces have become less safe, and it is heartbreaking,” said Lorraine Martin, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “Everyone deserves the chance to live their fullest life. This report shows our mission to save lives, from the workplace to anyplace, is critical, and NSC is committed to doing its part to curb this deadly trend and put an end to preventable workplace fatalities.”
What is worse: According to BLS, the share of Black or African American workers fatally injured on the job reached an all-time high in 2021, rising from 11.4% of total fatalities in 2020 to 12.6% of total fatalities in 2021. Deaths for this group climbed to 653 in 2021 from 541 in 2020, an increase of nearly 21%, and the fatality rate increased from 3.5 in 2020 to 4.0 per 100,000 FTE workers in 2021.
Furthermore, intentional injury deaths by a person increased 21% for women in 2021 compared to a 9% increase for men. Fully, 23% of all women who die at work involve an intentional injury by a person. These numbers reveal more must be done to ensure equitable actions are taken to address workplace violence issues for everyone.
“Too many lives are being lost from preventable causes,” said Jessica E. Martinez, MPH, co-executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health. “This unacceptably high death toll represents thousands of people taken away from their loved ones and thousands of empty seats at holiday celebrations in the coming days. And this does not even include the far greater number of workers who died from COVID-19, or long-term exposure to asbestos, silica or other toxic hazards.”
“We need an urgent wake-up call to our employers and our government,” said Martinez. “Listen to workers. Enforce our safety laws. Remove known hazards, and let’s work together to make sure every worker comes home safely at the end of every shift.”
“Our safety laws are crystal clear,” said Martinez. “Employers are responsible for providing a workplace free from known hazards — and that means for all workers, regardless of age, gender, race or ethnicity. We must address the discrimination and structural inequality which put some workers at greater risk, and confront these issues while also raising the bar to make every workplace as safe as possible, every single day.”
American Society of Safety Professionals
The American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP), the world’s oldest professional safety organization, is disheartened by newly released fatality data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Furthermore, ASSP is troubled that the share of Black or African American workers fatally injured on the job reached an all-time high of 12.6 percent of total fatalities in 2021. The Latino worker fatality rate of 4.5 per 100,000 workers also remained significantly above the national average.
“It’s unacceptable that our nation’s fatal worker injury rate is at a five-year high – a fact made worse by minority populations being disproportionately impacted,” said ASSP President Christine Sullivan, CSP, ARM. “Most occupational incidents are preventable given today’s technologies and proven safety and health strategies. Employers must be proactive in adopting workplace safety standards to protect workers across all industries.”
ASSP, which has 36,000 members worldwide, is increasing its focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the occupational safety and health profession, understanding there is a connection between DEI concepts and workplace safety. The organization has planned a free daylong DEI Summit on Jan. 26 that is open to workplace safety and health professionals everywhere. Registration for the online event opened Dec. 1.
“Diversity helps strengthen an organization in many ways, including the safety and health of its workforce,” Sullivan said. “We are going to hear from experts and collect different perspectives from attendees on how we can elevate DEI in our profession.”
Presenters and participants will collaborate on the DEI issues facing the industry today, generating ideas on how to remove barriers and build inclusive cultures to help the safety profession create safer workplaces. Discussions will focus on the way DEI directly impacts workplace safety and health.
“It’s so important to understand how societal issues such as racism and systemic inequities can undermine workplace safety and disenfranchise workers,” Sullivan said. “Organizational improvement occurs when diversity, equity and inclusion are embedded components of a business strategy.”
For more information on the virtual DEI Summit, please visit ASSP’s website.