The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were 5,190 fatal work injuries recorded in the United States in 2021, an 8.9-percent increase from 4,764 in 2020.
The fatal work injury rate was 3.6 fatalities per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, up from 3.4 per 100,000 FTE in 2020 and up from the 2019 pre-pandemic rate of 3.5, according to data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI).
BLS Chief Regional Economist Martin Kohli noted that the number of work-related fatalities in New Jersey was 110 in 2021, up from 82 in the previous year.
Fatal occupational injuries in New Jersey have ranged from a high of 145 in 1993 to a low of 69 in 2017.
The three major categories that accounted for the most fatal workplace injuries in the state were transportation incidents, exposure to harmful substances or environments and falls, slips, and trips.
In recent years, fatal workplace injuries have been on the rise in the United States, owing to an increase in employment, the expansion of the labor force, and low regard for workers among top management sectors of the economy.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently cited Amazon during inspections at six warehouse facilities in five states for failing to properly record work-related injuries and illnesses.
Amazon faces $29,008 in proposed penalties. The fines are part of an ongoing investigation.
Following referrals from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, OSHA opened inspections at Amazon locations in Deltona, Florida; Waukegan, Illinois; New Windsor, New York; Aurora, Colorado; Nampa, Idaho; and Castleton, New York.
The national economy includes some professions with low or near-zero fatality rates including office workers. At the same time, many Americans are employed in more dangerous industries such as natural resources, construction, and delivery.
The industry composition of the workforce makes a significant difference in worker safety among workers living in different states.
While the entire country is subject to workplace safety regulations from the national Occupational Safety and Health Administration, many states choose to add additional regulations to employers in their states. This variance in regulations also has an impact on worker safety in different states.
“Today’s announcement by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of a one-year increase of nearly 9 percent in fatal work injuries serves as call to action for OSHA, employers and other stakeholders to redouble our collective efforts to make our nation’s workplaces safer,” said Assistant Labor Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker.
“In 2021, 5,190 workers suffered fatal work injuries, equating to one worker death in the U.S. every 101 minutes, including 653 Black workers, whose fatality rate hit an all-time high. Black and Latino workers also had fatality rates disproportionately higher than their co-workers in 2021. These are deeply troubling facts,” said Parker.
“Each of these deaths cruelly impacts these workers’ families, friends, co-workers and communities,” said Parker. “They are clear reminders of the important work that must be done. OSHA and its thousands of professionals across the nation are determined to enforce the law while working with employers, workers, labor unions, trade associations and other stakeholders to ensure that every worker in the U.S. ends their workday safely.”
The 3.6 fatal occupational injury rate in 2021 represents the highest annual rate since 2016. A worker died every 101 minutes from a work-related injury in 2021.
The share of Black or African American workers fatally injured on the job reached an all time high in 2021, increasing from 11.4 percent of total fatalities in 2020 to 12.6 percent of total fatalities in 2021. for this group climbed to 653 in 2021 from 541 in 2020, a 20.7-percent increase. The fatality rate for this group increased from 3.5 in 2020 to 4.0 per 100,000 FTE workers in 2021.
Suicides continued to trend down, decreasing to 236 in 2021 from 259 in 2020, an 8.9-percent decrease.
Workers in transportation and material moving occupations experienced a series high of 1,523 fatal work injuries in 2021 and represent the occupational group with the highest number of fatalities. This is an increase of 18.8 percent from 2020.
Transportation incidents remained the most frequent type of fatal event in 2021 with 1,982 fatal injuries, an increase of 11.5 percent from 2020. This major category accounted for 38.2 percent of all work-related fatalities in 2021.
Despite experiencing an increase from 2020 to 2021, transportation incidents are still down 6.6 percent from 2019 when there were 2,122 fatalities.
Fatalities due to violence and other injuries by persons or animals increased to 761 fatalities in 2021 from 705 fatalities in 2020 (7.9 percent). The largest subcategory, intentional injuries by person, increased 10.3 percent to 718 in 2021.
Exposure to harmful substances or environments led to 798 worker fatalities in 2021, the highest figure since the series began in 2011. This major event category experienced the largest increase in fatalities in 2021, increasing 18.8 percent from 2020. Unintentional overdose from nonmedical use of drugs or alcohol accounted for 58.1 percent of these fatalities (464 deaths), up from 57.7 percent of this category’s total in 2020.
Work-related fatalities due to falls, slips, and trips increased 5.6 percent in 2021, from 805 fatalities in 2020 to 850 in 2021. Falls, slips, and trips in construction and extraction occupations accounted for 370 of these fatalities in 2021, and an increase of 7.2 percent from 2020 when there were 345 fatalities.
Despite the increase, this is still down 9.3 percent from 2019 when construction and extraction occupations experienced 408 fatalities due to this event.