Workplace injury rates stagnant, fatalities climb, BLS finds

(Photos: Pojoslaw, Dreamstime.com)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in November 2019 that the rate of nonfatal workplace injuries in 2018 was unchanged from the prior year, at 2.8 recordable cases per 100 full time workers. The rate for injuries resulting in days away from work was 0.9 per 100 workers, also unchanged from 2017 to 2018.

“This is the first year since 2012 that the [total recordable cases] rate did not decline,” according to BLS.

Workplace fatalities increased 2% in 2018, although the rate of fatalities remained the same at 3.5 deaths per 100,000 full time employees. BLS found that 40% of all workplace deaths involved transportation.

The number of falling deaths declined 11%, while the number of workers who were killed by contact with objects or equipment increased 13%. Overdose deaths increased for the sixth year in a row, rising 12% in 2018.

Construction fatalities increased nearly 4%. BLS noted that roofers, as well as logging workers, fishers and related fishing workers, aircraft pilots and flight engineers, had fatality rates “more than 10 times the all-worker rate of 3.5 fatalities per 100,000 FTE workers.”

[Related: Right to returnGetting back to  work after an injury]

Fatalities among independent workers such as subcontractors, which BLS started tracking in 2016, accounted for 12% of all fatal injuries in 2018. Fatalities of first-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workers, and construction laborers, accounted for nearly 18% of independent worker deaths and 2% of all worker deaths.

While the rate of construction injuries fell, it was a marginal decline and an above-average rate to begin with. BLS found the rate of injuries in the construction industry fell from 3.1 in 2017 to 3.0, while the rate of injuries that caused time away from work remained the same at 1.2.

In real numbers, total recordable injuries in the construction industry increased slightly from 198,100 to 199,100. However, injuries that resulted in time away from work fell by nearly 3%, from 79,800 to 77,500.

[Related: Mitigate lost-time claims with return-to-work programs]

“Stagnant injury rates are unacceptable and a clear call to employers nationwide to take a harder look at their approach to workplace safety and health,” Diana Stegall, president of the American Society of Safety Professionals, said in a statement. “Incidents that harm workers are occurring far too often in every industry. Most occupational injuries and illnesses are preventable given today’s technologies and proven safety and health strategies.”

Danielle Andrus

Editor, Colorado Builder Magazine

Danielle Andrus has 244 posts and counting. See all posts by Danielle Andrus

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