Editor’s Notes: Death on the Job

Falls Still Account for a Major Portion of Construction Job Fatalities

We fielded several queries about a government report on job fatality statistics that we publish every year. Well, this year the report was delayed as usual. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2018 was released on December 17, 2019, and you’re reading this in January 2020. Needless to say, the figures presented here are already a year out of date.

In this age of instant access and information overload, it’s refreshing to see our Federal Government is still operating slower than a herd of snails traveling through peanut butter. No threat of overwork or job stress here. Nonetheless, these figures are as up-to-date as it’s going to get for another year.

A death on the job is not a pleasant subject, and I know of several contractors who have gone through this terrible experience. Even one death is a tragedy, and I’m not making light of the situation, but merely presenting the numbers as compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Bureau noted that the there was a total of 5,250 fatal workplace injuries in 2018, a 2% increase over the previous year. While this may be true, it’s hardly alarming. According to the agency, “The fatal work injury rate remained unchanged at 3.5 per 100,000 full-time equivalent.” As the economy improves, more people are working, which means more accidents are bound to happen. While the actual number of fatalities was up, the rate per 100,000 remained the same. Some may say that our goal should be zero workplace fatalities, but this is just not realistic. The only guaranteed way to reduce this number to zero fatalities is for everyone to be out of work. Violence in the workplace continues to rise and is always a tragedy. In 2018, there were 828 fatalities, or 15.8%. This compares to 807 fatalities the previous year.

By far, the most dangerous industry is, was, and will probably continue to be, highway transportation, accounting for 2,080 transportation-related deaths in 2018, or 39.6% of the total. Highway deaths have topped the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ list for as long as they’ve been keeping track using their current system, and this isn’t likely to change.

Construction deaths accounted for 1,003 of the total fatalities in 2018, or 19.1% of the total. This compares to 965 deaths the previous year. Fall fatalities, including from ladders, scaffolds, roofs, or through openings, numbered 791 across all professions. This is a significant reduction from 887 during the previous year. Of these fatal falls, 77.7% were from a higher to a lower level. The remainder of fatalities contributed were falls from the same level or though a surface or an existing opening.

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics no longer reports total number of fatalities by state, they do report the rate per 100,000 workers. This method is probably more equitable. Twenty-one states were listed with a higher rate of workplace fatalities in 2018 than the previous year, while the rest remained the same or declined. Wyoming holds the dubious honor of the highest job fatalities rate with 11.5 per 100,000 workers, while Delaware was the lowest with 1.6.

If you just can’t get enough of these labor statistics, go to http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cfoi.pdf.



Marc Dodson


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