As part of its Occupational Safety and Health Statistics program, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes a detailed report on occupational injury and illness numbers and rates for the previous year. It publishes a similarly detailed report on fatal occupational injury numbers and rates for the previous year; the 2019 report was published in December 2020.
The report notes that there were 5,333 fatal work injuries recorded in the United States in 2019, a 2% increase over 2018 (5,250 fatal injuries reported). The 2019 numbers represented 3.5 fatalities per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, the same rate as 2018. However, the 2019 numbers represent the largest total annual number since 2007. The numbers also translate into a worker dying from a work-related injury every 99 minutes in 2019.
One of the more interesting aspects is the age of workers killed on the job. Workers 55–64 years old had the highest number of on-the-job deaths (1,212). In second place was workers 45–54 years old (1,082 deaths).
The 10 states with the highest number of work-related fatalities in 2019 were Texas (608), California (451), Florida (306), New York (273), Georgia (207), North Carolina (186), Virginia (180), Ohio (166), Michigan (164) and Illinois (158), for a total of 2,753, or slightly over half of the nation’s total work-related fatalities.
Electricity as a cause
The report noted that exposure “to harmful substances or environments” led to 642 worker deaths in 2019, the highest figure since that series began in 2011. One of those subcategories was “exposure to electricity,” which caused 166 of the 642 deaths, and that number has been increasing in recent years: 134 in 2015, 154 in 2016, 136 in 2017 and 160 in 2018.
The “fire or explosion” number was better, with 99 such deaths in 2019, representing a decrease from 121 in 2015, 123 in 2017 and 115 in 2018.
The report noted that the private construction industry had 1,061 fatal injuries in 2019, an increase of 5% from the previous year (compared to the 2% increase for all fatal work injuries noted above). This was also the highest number of on-the-job fatalities for construction workers since 2007. The 2019 rate per 100,000 workers was 9.7%, up from 9.5% in 2018.
One bright spot in the report was work-related deaths in the utilities industry, which numbered 22 in 2019, down from a high of 30 in 2016.