Some industries are inherently dangerous. But no industry should be so dangerous that individuals die in service of it. Unfortunately, Americans perish too often as a result of construction accidents, maritime accidents, commercial carrier accidents and other workplace perils. However, the Labor Department recently announced that fewer American workers perished in 2011 than in 2010. It is up to employees and employers to help ensure that this trend continues.
In all, 4,609 American employees died in 2011 due to fatal work-related injuries. 81 more workers perished due to the same reasons in 2010. Some industries, like construction and mining, experienced a significant drop in workplace fatalities. However, other industries, like commercial trucking, experienced a rise in their workplace fatality rates.
The specific percentage breakdown of fatal workplace injury causes during 2011 is as follows:
- Three percent: Explosions and fires
- Nine percent: Harmful substance exposure
- Fifteen percent: Slips and falls
- Fifteen percent: Equipment or object-based contact injuries
- Seventeen percent: Violence (others, animals and self-inflicted)
- Forty-one percent: Transportation related accidents
Fatality rates varied among workers of varied ages and races. For example, fatality rates among elderly and very young workers dropped from the previous year, while rates among workers aged 20-24 rose by nearly 20 percent. In addition, while fatality rates amongst Caucasian workers dropped by a few percentage points, rates amongst Hispanic, Latino and African-American workers increased.
These disparities are unacceptable. Both because workers of every age, race and gender should be equally protected from harm and because workplace fatalities should be as close to 100 percent preventable as possible. Hopefully 2012 will prove to be the turning point after which fatality rates will no longer climb but will steadily descend.
Source: Wall Street Journal, “Fewer Americans Died From Work-Related Injuries in 2011,” Josh Mitchell, Sep. 20, 2012