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BLS: On-the-job deaths jump 8.9% in 2021, again rising above 5,000

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Washington — A total of 5,190 workers died as a result of on-the-job injuries in 2021 – an 8.9% increase from the previous year, according to data released Dec. 16 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Last year’s total marks the fifth time in six years that workplace deaths surpassed 5,000 on the Census of Fatal Occupation Injuries. BLS recorded 4,764 in 2020 – the lowest number of fatalities since 4,585 were recorded in 2013. The 5,190 deaths are fewer than the 5,333 recorded in 2019 and the 5,250 in 2018. From 2009 to 2015, fatalities remained below the 5,000 mark.

The rate of fatal work-related injuries in 2021 – 3.6 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers – is the highest since 2016 (also 3.6) and an increase from 3.4 in 2020. A worker died every 101 minutes last year, according to BLS.

Transportation incidents remained the top cause of death, resulting in 1,982 fatalities and accounting for 38.2% of all fatal work-related injuries. Also of note:

  • Transportation and material moving jobs had the highest number of fatalities, at 1,523.
  • Black or African American workers represented 12.6% of the workplace fatalities, an all-time high.
  • Black or African American workers and Hispanic or Latino workers had fatality rates (4.0 and 4.5 per 100,000 FTE workers, respectively) higher than the national average.
  • Transportation incidents were the No. 1 cause of death for both of these groups.

“The data included in this report indicate workplaces have become less safe, and it is heartbreaking,” said Lorraine M. Martin, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “Everyone deserves the chance to live their fullest life. This report shows our mission to save lives, from the workplace to anyplace, is critical, and NSC is committed to doing its part to curb this deadly trend and put an end to preventable workplace fatalities.”

The data release is the second of two annual BLS reports. The first, released Nov. 7, examined nonfatal injuries and illnesses among private-sector employees.

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