The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has released distressing data revealing a nearly 6% increase in workplace fatalities in 2022 compared to the previous year. These alarming findings remind us that much work still must be done to enhance occupational health and safety measures.
In a press release, The U.S. Department of Labor’s Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker said, “Every worker death has profound impacts on family, friends, co-workers and communities. That is why investing in worker safety and health must be a core value in every workplace across the country. All workers have a right to do their job without fear of being injured or sickened.”
The BLS data disclosed that 5,486 individuals succumbed to work-related injuries in 2022, translating to a worker’s tragic death every 96 minutes. This is a significant 5.7% surge from the preceding year. This unsettling trend contrasts sharply with the 4,764 fatalities recorded in 2020, which marked the lowest since 2013. The escalating fatality rate, which climbed to 3.7 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers, amplifies the urgency for decisive actions to reverse this concerning trajectory.
Transportation Incidents: A Leading Concern
The transportation and material moving sectors remained the predominant cause of workplace fatalities, accounting for 37.7% of all deaths. This alarming statistic necessitates enhanced safety protocols, training, and monitoring mechanisms, especially for workers in the transportation and material moving sector, which accounted for the highest number of workplace fatalities (1,620), followed by the construction and extraction sectors (1,056).
Mental Health and Unintentional Overdoses
In 2022, suicides rose by 13.1%, resulting in 267 fatalities, reversing the declining trends observed in 2020 and 2021. Additionally, exposure to harmful substances or environments saw a 5.1% uptick, contributing to 839 worker deaths, with unintentional overdoses accounting for over 60% of these fatalities.
The concerning trajectory continued with unintentional overdose deaths surging by 13.1% to 525 fatalities in 2022, marking a persistent trend since 2012 that demands immediate action. The National Safety Council emphasized the urgency, commenting in a statement, “More must be done by employers to prevent these fatalities,” in a statement on the newly released data. Overdoses can happen anywhere, and the BLS report shows these medical emergencies can be fatal and occur in the workplace.
“This further makes overdose and naloxone awareness, access to naloxone in workplace first aid kits and other locations, and adoption of programs to ensure workplaces and their employees are equipped to save a life critical components to workplace safety.”.
Vulnerable Populations: Disparities and Inequities
The BLS data also highlighted the growth in disparities for workers of color, including Black workers, whose fatality rate increased by 12.4 percent, and Hispanic and Latino workers, whose rate grew by 10.4 percent. Transportation incidents remained the predominant cause of death within these groups.
In 2022, fatalities among Black workers constituted 13.4% of the total fatalities, yet they comprised 33.4% of all homicide-related deaths. Similarly, women comprised 8.1% of overall workplace fatalities, yet they constituted 15.3% of homicides during the same period.
The data release was the second of two Bureau of Labor Statistics annual reports—the first covered nonfatal injuries and illnesses in private sector employees.
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