Report Examines Workplace Safety


June 2017


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In 2015, on average, 150 workers died from preventable work-related injuries and illnesses every day in the United States, according to a report released in late April by the AFL-CIO.


The federation (to which the SIU is affiliated) confirmed that 4,836 workers died due to workplace injuries, and another 50,000-60,000 died from occupational diseases. The number of immigrant workers killed on the job reached a nearly 10-year high.


“Corporate negligence and weak safety laws have resulted in tragedy for an astonishing and unacceptable number of working families,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “These are more than numbers; they are our brothers and sisters, and a reminder of the need to continue our fight for every worker to be safe on the job every day.”


The document, titled Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, marks the 26th year the AFL-CIO has reported on the state of safety and health protections for workers in the United States. The report shows the highest workplace fatality rates are in North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Nebraska and West Virginia.


According to the report, Latino workers have an 18 percent higher fatality rate than the national average. Deaths among Latino workers increased to 903, compared with 804 in 2014. Overall, 943 immigrant workers were killed on the job in 2015 – the highest number since 2007.


The report also finds that construction, transportation and agriculture remain among the most dangerous sectors. A total of 937 construction workers were killed in 2015 – the highest in any sector. Older workers also are at high risk, with those 65 or older 2.5 times more likely to die on the job. Workplace violence resulted in 703 deaths.


The complete, 228-page report is available online in PDF format. It’s linked in an April 26 post in the News section of the SIU website, and also available here.


In part, the report’s executive summary reads, “These are challenging times for working people and their unions, and the prospects for worker safety and health protections are uncertain. What is clear, however, is that the toll of workplace injury, illness and death remains too high, and too many workers remain at serious risk. There is much more work to be done.”


The summary also includes what many would deem sobering numbers about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In particular, there are only 1,838 inspectors (815 federal and 1,023 state) to inspect the 8 million workplaces under the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s jurisdiction. That translates to federal-level OSHA having enough inspectors to examine workplaces once every 159 years, and state-level OSHA having enough inspectors to check workplaces once every 99 years. According to the summary, there is one inspector for every 76,402 workers.


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