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Work-Related Deaths in the US

workers comp

Posted on January 14, 2019

Fall, slip, fire, exposure to harmful substances, struck by equipment, and caught in, or compressed by an object. These are all categories the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) uses to neatly accomplish the grisly task of tallying and categorizing workplace-related deaths in the U.S. each year. According to the BLS’s annual report, 5,147 workers died on the job in the U.S. in 2017. Averaged out, that runs around 100 deaths a week or 14 deaths every day[i].

Most of us that will find themselves sitting at a desk for the better part of their natural lives, tend to think of office life as a rather safe and mundane environment. Humorous indeed are the annual OSHA inspections for workplace safety. Paper cuts, bruised egos, and hot coffee burns aside, when one considers a dangerous work environment, we tend to lean towards industries that fit with the categories above – the construction worker high upon the scaffolding, the steel mill worker pouring hot liquid metal, or workers using heavy equipment in manufacturing.

It may come as a shock then to learn that most work-place accidents don’t occur in high-risk jobs like police work or construction, but rather as what the BLS categorizes as “transportation incidents”. Some 40% percent of all workplace-related deaths occur as transportation incidents. By far, the most common deadly transportation incident is an automobile accident. The second most-common work-related deaths occur as a “fall, slip, or trip” but, in comparison, account for just 17% of the total deaths. With transportation deaths, the BLS also includes pedestrian, aircraft, rail, and water incidents.

For employers, it’s important to remember that each time an employee leaves the office in a vehicle performing any work-related task, the employer retains liability if the employee is involved in an accident. In Cooper v. Barnickel Enterprises, the Superior Court of New Jersey found that an injured employee was entitled to workers compensation benefits even when the work was performed off-site and the accident causing the injuries occurred during a coffee run[ii]. Nearly every state in the Union requires businesses to have a workers compensation insurance policy in effect. Penalties for not having this differ from state to state but can include jail time and heavy fines. If the business does not have this insurance, the injured worker could sue the business directly for injuries sustained while on-the-job.

With the number of workers dying in automobile accidents during the course of their employment, employers should look to take steps to mitigate these while on-the-job. Turnover costs to the employer include time and lost productivity, recruitment costs, hiring temporary staff, paying employee overtime to cover the shortfall, delayed work products, and many others both tangible and intangible. It is simple to see that it is far more beneficial for companies to invest in ways that minimize the likeliness of an accident occurring while on-the-job.

Some 272 workers died in 2017 as the result of what BLS identifies as “non-medical use of drugs or alcohol unintentional overdose”.  This workplace-related cause of death has seen dramatic increases year-over-year and is a sub-component of the category, “Exposure to harmful substances or environments”.  The total deaths in 2017 is a 25% increase from the year before and marks the 5th consecutive year that overdose deaths have risen by at least 25%! It is hard to imagine so many men and women overdosing while trying to perform a work function, maybe even getting behind the wheel. We see the heartbreak that results from accidents involving vehicles every day. At Farah and Farah, our attorney’s help those who have been hurt or lost a loved one as a result of reckless or distracted wrongdoers. If you need to learn more about the process of getting compensation for injuries, our team has decades of experience in vehicular personal injury cases. Please Contact Us and an attorney from our Personal Injury section will gladly review your case and discuss your options completely free of charge.


[i]United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary, 2017. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/cfoi.nr0.htm

[ii]Cooper v. Barnickel EnterprisesSuperior Crt. of NJ Appellate Div., No. A-1813-08T3, 1/13/10