Itasca, IL — The National Safety Council is very disheartened to see the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing a 7 percent rise in workplace deaths since 2015. Fatal work injuries reached 5,190 in 2016 – the third consecutive annual increase and the first time in nearly a decade that the number has surpassed 5,000. Employers cannot ignore this data, particularly since many different demographics are affected. Notably:
- Overdoses from the non-medical use of drugs or alcohol while on the job increased from 165 in 2015 to 217 in 2016, a 32 percent increase
- Deaths among workers aged 55 or older totaled 1,848 — a 9.9 percent increase
- Deaths among black or African-American, non-Hispanics increased 18.6 percent, totaling 587
- Deaths among Asian, non-Hispanic workers increased 40.4 percent, totaling 160 deaths
- Fall, slip, and trip deaths increased 6 percent, totaling 849 deaths
- Transportation incidents remained the most common fatal event, totaling 2,083 deaths
- Unintentional workplace deaths increased 5 percent, totaling 4,399 deaths
- Homicides increased 19.9 percent now totaling 500 deaths
All employers need to take a systematic approach to ensure the safety of all of their workers. This includes having policies and training in place to address the major causes of fatalities as well as emerging issues such as prescription opioid misuse and fatigue. Leadership should set the tone from the top and engage all workers in safety, continually looking to identify and mitigate workplace safety hazards and measuring safety performance using leading indicators to ensure continuous improvement.
The National Safety Council offers resources to help employers improve their safety performance and keep their workers safe. This includes a free Safe Driving Kit and Prescription Drug Employer Toolkit. The Campbell Institute at the Council provides helpful information in its white paper, “Defining EHS Excellence: Best Practices from Campbell Award Winners.” Employers can also join the Road to Zero coalition to help end fatalities on our roadways.
Workplace injuries and fatalities should never be considered a cost of doing business. Every worker deserves a safe work environment and to return home safely at the end of each work day.