Record-high Number of Workers Died on the Job in 2019

On December 25, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report about on-the-job accidents in the United States in 2019. Last year was the deadliest year in more than 12 years, reported the agency in its annual statement. More than 5,300 people died on the job in 2019. That amounts to one worker dying every 99 minutes. This was a 2% increase over the number of worker deaths in 2018. Nearly 10.3% more workers died on the job in 2019 compared to 2015. One of the most glaring issues in the report was the racial disparity in worker deaths.

Racial Disparities in Deaths on the Job

Some industries and jobs within industries are more dangerous than others. However, death statistics show that Hispanic and Latinx workers had a 20% increase in deaths in 2019 compared to 2019. deaths in African Americans increased by 28% during the same period of time. Among Asian American workers, deaths grew by 59%. This information was released by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health. Jessica Martinez, the Executive Director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, said that decades of racism and discrimination and assignment of black, Latinx and Asian workers to the most dangerous jobs are the reasons for the increase in their death rates. Fatalities among Caucasian workers increased by 1.7% in 2019 compared to 2018.

Lack of Union Representation Also Plays a Role

Labor unions do a lot of advocacy around protecting workers from dangerous situations and precarious jobs. The loss of unions and reduction in union participation have led to an erosion in workplace protections, explains Martinez. When the standards for labor safety deteriorate, marginalized workers suffer the most.

Jobs With the Highest Numbers of Deaths

Some jobs have much higher death rates than others. Historically, coal miners, fishermen and construction workers died at the highest rates. As an industry, the greatest total number of deaths occurred in drivers. When looking at the rate per 100,000 workers, Fishing and hunting industry workers had the highest fatality rate in 2019. Their fatality rate was 145 per 100,000. Workers age 55 and older accounted for 38% of on-the-job fatalities, which is a higher proportion than the workers in this category. In 1992, only 20% of on-the-job deaths occurred in people ages 55 and older. In a glimmer of good news, fatalities among active duty members of the military dropped by 21%. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has been collecting an annual census of fatal occupational injuries since 1992.

Most Dangerous Jobs in the United States

Drivers accounted for 1,480 on-the-job deaths in 2019. That's about 20% of all worker deaths on the job. About 1,060 of those deaths took place in private construction. Those in the fishing and hunting industries had the highest death rate per 100,000 workers. They were followed by loggers, pilots, flight engineers and roofers.

Circumstances That Led to Worker Deaths

Many workplace deaths were related to transportation. More than 2,000 fatal incidents took place while workers were in transit. The second-leading cause of on-the-job deaths was slip-and-fall accidents or trip-and-fall incidents. Those injuries led to more than 880 deaths. Suicides and unintentional overdoses while on the job accounted for more than 300 worker deaths in 2019.

Racial Disparities in On-the-job Fatalities

Deaths among Hispanic and Latinx workers had a disturbing upward trend in 2019. More than 1,088 Hispanic or Latinx workers died on the job. In 2016, 879 Hispanic or Latino workers were killed while working. This is the biggest fatality increase among all racial and ethnic groups.

Jobs With the Most Work-related Deaths in 2019

The transportation and material moving industry lead the pack for the most work-related deaths in 2019. This category accounted for 1,481 deaths. There were 1,066 deaths among construction and extraction workers. In the service industry, 762 workers died while on the job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reported that 438 installation, maintenance and repair workers died while working.

Fatal Work Injuries By Type of Event

Transportation incidents accounted for 2,122 deaths in 2019. This was followed by 880 slips, falls and trips that led to deaths. Violence and injuries caused by people or animals caused 841 deaths. This category includes homicides and suicides. Contact with objects and equipment caused 732 deaths. Exposure to substances or the environment, including accidental overdoses, led to 642 on-the-job deaths.

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