The National Safety Council is saddened to see a 2% rise in total worker deaths – 5,250 in 2018 compared to 5,147 in 2017 – according to data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Despite the fact that the rate of death has not changed from 2017, this is the highest total worker fatality number reported since 2008. Unintentional workplace deaths also saw a slight increase, totaling 4,493 in 2018, up from 4,414 the year prior. The rate of unintentional workplace deaths also has not changed.
Notably, unintentional overdoses from nonmedical use of drugs or alcohol increased for the sixth consecutive year, claiming 305 lives in 2018 compared with 272 the previous year. Meanwhile, work-related motor vehicle deaths declined, totaling 1,276 in 2018, down from 1,299 in 2017. In addition, falls to a lower level decreased to 615 deaths in 2018, down from 713 the year prior.
Motor vehicle crashes and falls remain the leading causes of preventable death on the job, with drug and alcohol overdoses growing as a workplace threat. Drug overdoses are the No. 1 cause of preventable death outside of the workplace.
The data shows we are still not doing enough to protect our workers. Workplace fatalities should never be considered a cost of doing business. Employers need to take a systematic approach to safety that includes having policies, training and risk assessment techniques in place to address major causes of fatalities and injuries. Leadership needs to set the tone from the top and engage all workers in safety, identify hazards and measure safety performance using leading indicators to continuously improve.
The National Safety Council provides resources to assist employers in improving workplace safety. These include NSC membership offerings, workplace training, consulting services, employee perception surveys and the Work to Zero initiative. Free NSC toolkits include the Opioids at Work Employer Toolkit, Fatigue at Work Employer Toolkit and Safe Driving Toolkit. The Campbell Institute at the Council also provides helpful research such as “Serious Injury and Fatality Prevention: Perspectives and Practices.” Employers can join the Road to Zero coalition and use driver safety training to help end roadway fatalities.