Trade Workers Fatal Work Injuries Fell in 2017

The number of fatal work injuries in 2017 is down from the numbers reported in 2016, and is also down for specialty trade contractors, such as glaziers. According to the new “National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2017” report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were a total of 5,146 fatal work injuries recorded in the U.S. in 2017. Of those deaths, 610 occurred in the specialty trades sector, down from 631 fatal work injuries in 2016.

According to the report, fatal falls were at their highest level in the 26-year history of the census, accounting for 887 (17 percent) of worker deaths in 2017. Fatal falls were the second leading cause of work fatalities. Transportation incidents were the leading cause of fatal work injuries in 2017 with 2,077 (40 percent) work fatalities. Violence and other injuries by persons or animals, including homicides and suicides, were down 7 percent in 2017.While fatal work injuries caused by violence were down, unintentional overdoses due to nonmedical use of drugs or alcohol while at work jumped 25 percent in 2017 with 272 deaths. This was the fifth consecutive year where the cause increased by at least 25 percent.

Other trends include:

  • Fatal work injuries caused by contact with objects and equipment were down 9 percent in 2017, accounting for 695 deaths.
  • Fatal occupational injuries involving confined spaces increased 15 percent to 166 in 2017.
  • Crane-related workplace fatalities fell to 33 deaths in 2017, the lowest level ever recorded in the census.

“The transportation and material moving occupational group and the construction and extraction occupational group accounted for 47 percent of worker deaths in 2017,” reads the report.

However, construction trade workers do not fall among the occupants with the highest rates of fatal work injuries in 2017. The number of fatal work injuries among construction trades workers rose from 736 in 2016 to 747, but the number among specialty trade contractors in the industry category dropped from 631 in 2016 to 610 in 2018. Fatality rates were not published for either group.

State Rates

Alaska had the highest rate of work fatalities with 10.2 fatal injuries per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers (FTEs). That state’s rate was down from 10.6 in 2016. North Dakota followed closely behind with 10.1 fatal injuries per 100,000 FTEs, up from 7 per 100,000 FTEs in 2016.

The threes state with the lowest rate in 2017 were New Hampshire, New Jersey and Rhode Island all with 1.6 deaths per 100,000 FTEs.

Other Key Findings

Workers aged 65 or over accounted for 15 percent of the fatally injured workers in 2017, a series high. This age group had the highest fatality rate of any age group with 10.3 fatalities per 100,000 FTEs.

Fatalities among non-Hispanic black or African American workers and non-Hispanic Asian workers both fell 10 percent from 2016 to 2017.

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