News Workplace Deaths Down, New Labor Data Show

According to Bloomberg’s Construction Labor News:The chance of dying from on-the-job injuries decreased in 2017, and the number of workplace deaths was down, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Dec. 18.

The fatality rate was 3.5 deaths for every 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, down from 3.6 in 2017, the BLS said, reporting results from its annual Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries.

Altogether, 5,147 workers lost their lives on the job, compared with 5,190 in 2016.

Loren Sweatt, acting head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, in a written statement highlighted that deaths in the private manufacturing industry and wholesale trade industries reached their lowest points since the bureau began the census effort in 2003.

“While today’s report shows a decline in the number of workplace fatalities, the loss of even one worker is too many,” Sweatt said.

Peg Seminario, the AFL-CIO’s safety and health director in Washington, told Bloomberg Law she was frustrated by fatality rate numbers that have changed little in the past decade.

“We’re not making progress,” Seminario said.

The fatality rate since 2008 has varied from a high of 3.7 in 2008 to a low of 3.3 in 2013, according to the BLS.

The stagnant numbers could lead for a push in 2019 to boost the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s inspector force, Seminario said.

In the past five years, the number of OSHA inspectors declined 12 percent to 753 as of October, according to OSHA.

While the construction industry again had the most fatalities of the large industry groups tracked by the bureau, the overall number and rate declined for 2017.

There were 971 fatalities, compared to 991 in 2016, and the fatality rate dropped to 9.5, down from 2016’s 10.1.

Kevin Cannon, senior director for safety and health services for the Associated General Contractors of America in Arlington, Va., told Bloomberg Law the numbers improved even though the overall experience levels among construction workers decreased.

“In the face of a skilled labor shortage, it shows contractors have really stepped up to show they are operating safer job sites,” Cannon said.

The 2017 rate for manufacturing was 1.9, a slight improvement from 2 in 2016.

The transportation and warehousing industry rate was worse for 2017—15.1, up from 2016’s 14.3.

Much of the increase was attributed by the bureau to more deaths among trucking workers, such as drivers. There were 1,084 operator deaths in 2017, a 7 percent increase from the year before.

(Adds union and industry comments, and details from the report.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Rolfsen in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Cathleen O’Connor Schoultz at; Martha Mueller Neff at