Safety First On The Job Site

Workplace fatalities at highest level in years

A new report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 5,190 people were killed on the job in 2016, the most since 2008.

What’s more, the rate of fatal injuries for full-time workers rose to 3.6 per 100,000, the highest since 2010.

Some of the details from the report:

  •  Fatal injuries among leisure and hospitality workers were 32 percent higher in 2016 than 2015.
  • Deaths from falls, slips or trips increased 6% to 849; up more than 25% for roofers, carpenters and tree-trimmers, as well as truck drivers.
  • Drug and alcohol overdoses jumped to 217 cases, the fourth straight increase of at least 25%, amid the nation’s opioid epidemic.

The report reflects the third consecutive increase in annual workplace fatalities. It also marks the first time more than 5,000 fatalities have been recorded by the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries since 2008.

A disproportionate share of fatal work injuries involved men relative to hours worked. Only 7% of the 5,190 fatal injuries involved women. The bureau found that men had a fatal work injury rate of 5.8 deaths per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, while the rate for women was 0.6.

On the other hand, there was a 40 percent rise in fatal occupational injuries in bars and restaurants – workplaces where women are in the majority.

Overall, 387 women suffered fatal on-the-job injuries in 2016, 12.5 percent more than the 344 the year before. That’s almost double the percentage hike (6.9) for men.

None of this is good news, of course.

The best strategy for employers to consider is taking a systematic approach to ensure the safety of all their workers. That 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.

Employers will want to continually look to identify and mitigate workplace safety hazards as well as measure safety performance to ensure ongoing improvement.

Workplace safety cannot exist on best practice guidelines and policies alone. A safe working environment is based on how well the people, in both management and on the factory floor, adhere to — and communicate about — safety standards.

About the Author

Lon Matejczyk

Lon is the former publisher of the Colorado Springs Business Journal and Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group.He has served in leadership roles at various newspapers in Iowa, Florida and Wisconsin. Lon received his Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire and attended the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. Earlier in his career, Lon spent several years as a sea captain and held a 100-ton Coast Guard license. Lon is a former rugby player, referee and administrator and now coaches under 13 year old kids. Lon has served on the boards of numerous community and business organizations including Colorado Springs Leadership Institute, Peak Venture Group, CS Quality of Life Indicators Business Index Committee, Junior Achievement and is a member of The Colorado Thirty Group.  Lon was given the “Making the Pikes Peak region a better place to live work and play” award by the CS Chamber of Commerce, was the VFW Post 1’s business citizen of the year.