With a new decade underway, there is no way to escape a look back at important stuff, and, in this case, the lookback comes from the federal Bureau of Labor Standards statistics with a review of the nearly steady improvement in worker safety. As with most government reports, there is a lag between when data is gathered and when it is reported, but here is a collection of some of the vital information from the BLS vaults.

Since 1972, the Injuries, BLS’ Illness and Fatalities program collected data on work-related injuries, illnesses, and fatal injuries. The many years of data now available show that workers are incurring fewer injuries and fatalities on the job, but also show that there is still much to do to make workers safer while they are on the job.

From 1992 to 2016, there were a total of 139,151 fatal occupational injuries in the United States. There were 6,217 fatal occupational injuries in 1992. In 2016, there were 5,190—a decrease of approximately 17 percent over 25 years. Over this period, 1994 showed the most fatal occupational injuries: 6,632. 

The year with the fewest fatal occupational injuries was 2009, with 4,551, which reflects in the decline of activity in construction and other industries as a by-product of the “Great Recession.”

In 2016, there were approximately 14 deaths per day, which means a worker died from a fatal work injury every 102 minutes.


Self-employed workers are more likely to die from a work injury

The overall fatal injury rate was 3.6 fatalities (per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers) in 2016 and 3.4 in 2015 and 2014.

In 2016, the fatal injury rate for selfemployed workers, 13.1 fatalities per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, was more than four times the rate for wage and salary workers, which was 3.0 fatalities.


1.5 million nonfatal injuries or illnesses caused workers to miss work or have duties changed

Nonfatal injury and illness cases that involved one or more days away from work, or a job transfer or restriction made up roughly half of all nonfatal injuries in private industry in 2016. The remaining cases were those where workers did not miss any work and were not restricted or transferred. The proportion of job transfer or restriction cases, where the worker is on restricted duty or assigned to another job as a result of the injury, has grown over the past 25 years.


Different nonfatal incidence rates in the private and public sectors

SOII collects data from establishments in the public sector (state and lo- cal government) as well as the private sector.

There are significant differences in incidence rates between establishments in the private, state, and local government sectors. It is worth noting that the make-up of industries and occupations for government is different from the private sector and that job duties vary greatly.


Injury, illness, and fatality data by industry and occupation

Looking at both occupation and industry characteristics of fatal workplace injuries provides additional insight. For example, construction and heavy-duty trucking were the occupations with most fatal occupational injuries for the private manufacturing and the oil and gas extraction industries.


Deaths for workers age 55 and older increased 50 percent from 1992 to 2016

Fatal occupational injuries declined for workers in the 25 to 34 and 35 to 44 age groups from 1992 to 2016. There was an increase for workers in the 55 to 64 and 65 and older age groups.

The increase in fatal occupational injuries to workers 55 and older was one of the significant changes in CFOI data from 1992 to 2016. Workers 55 and older made up approximately 20 percent of injuries in 1992 and 36 percent in 2016.

Older workers face a higher risk of being killed at work than workers as a whole. In 2016, the rate of fatal injury for all workers was 3.6 deaths per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers. For workers age 65 and older, that figure was 9.6.


Almost 15,000 foreign-born workers died from 2001 to 2016

Foreign-born workers consistently represented 16 to 20 percent of fatal occupational injuries since birthplace data were first recorded, starting in 2001. From 2001 to 2016, there were 14,562 fatal occupational injuries to foreignborn workers and 68,665 fatal occupational injuries to native-born workers.

Mexico was the most common birthplace among fatally injured foreign-born workers from 2001 to 2016, with 6,046. The next most frequent countries of birth were Guatemala (545), El Salvador (533), and India (533).