The statistics are staggering. On average, 150 people across the country die every day from work-related accidents, injuries and illnesses. In 2016 alone, more than 5,000 people were killed on the job – and another 50,000 died from occupational illnesses. Many of those deaths were preventable.
A recent report issued by the AFL-CIO sheds light on what contributes to job-related fatalities. Examining data from 2016, the report highlights two key areas of focus that must be addressed to reduce fatalities: Workplace violence and chemical exposure.
Surprisingly, violence in the workplace – homicide, assault and suicide – is the second-leading cause of death on the job (behind vehicle accidents). These deaths rose by nearly 25 percent in 2016. Populations most at risk include:
- Immigrants and minorities
- Health care workers
- Social services workers
- Public-sector employees (especially in health care and social services)
In many occupations – nursing, psychology and counseling, for example – violence is a foreseeable risk. However, the Trump Administration has sidelined an OSHA safety initiative on preventing workplace violence, and there are currently no federal standards in place to mitigate the risk.
Exposure to chemicals and toxins
Industries such as construction, mining and agriculture involve working closely with toxic substances. Some can cause immediate health problems. Others pose a threat when chronic exposure eventually leads to cancer or terminal illness.
OSHA’s system for regulating these substances has long been insufficient, and in recent years, the protections offered by OSHA and the EPA have been weakened further. As a result, workers are at increased risk of illness and death.
Staying safe on the job
The report highlights just how prevalent workplace injuries remain, with more than 3.5 million job-related injuries and illnesses in 2016 alone. It also illustrates how workers can’t rely on others – their employers, their coworkers or even the government agencies that are supposed to protect them – to stay safe on the job.
If you suspect your safety is at risk, speak up. Don’t become another statistic.