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BLS: On-the-job deaths at lowest level in seven years

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Washington — A total of 4,764 workers died as a result of on-the-job injuries in 2020 – a 10.7% decrease from the year before and the lowest number of fatalities since 4,585 were recorded in 2013, according to Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries data released Dec. 16 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Additionally, the overall rate of fatal workplace injuries decreased slightly, to 3.4 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers in 2020 from 3.5 the previous year.

Other highlights:

  • More than 1 out of 5 workplace fatalities in 2020 involved Hispanic or Latino workers. The 1,072 deaths among this group represent 22.5% of all workplace fatalities.
  • The 541 deaths among Black workers marks a 14.7% decrease from the previous year.
  • Transportation-related fatalities fell 16.2% to 1,778 while accounting for 37.3% of all fatal work-related injuries.
  • Nearly half of fatal occupational injuries (47.4%) involved workers in transportation/material moving and construction and extraction occupations.
  • Workers in health care support occupations experienced 44 fatal injuries – a 15.8% increase from 2019.
  • Worker suicides fell to 259 in 2020 from 307 the previous year – a 15.6% decrease and the lowest total for on-the-job suicides since 2015.

BLS included additional clarification on the COVID-19 pandemic, stating, “CFOI reports fatal workplace injuries only. These may include fatal workplace injuries complicated by an illness such as COVID-19.” CFOI doesn’t report illness-related information, however, including that for COVID-19.

In a press release, the AFL-CIO emphasizes that the BLS data fails to capture the “staggering number of workers who so far have lost their lives from COVID-19 – tens of thousands and growing,” as well as, the organization claims, the nearly 120,000 workers who die annually from “preventable occupational illnesses” such as work-related cancers.

“We need a more targeted approach to address significant disparities in who has access to a safe job and who is treated with dignity and respect at work,” AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler said in the release. “We are working with the Biden administration to hold employers accountable and to rebuild our workplace safety agencies to strengthen job safety protections and enforcement. Working people are standing united to ensure workplace hazards are addressed and that workers can speak up without retaliation.”

The data release is the second of two annual BLS reports. The first, released Nov. 3, examined nonfatal injuries and illnesses among private-sector employees.

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