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        Workplace Fatalities Rise: What’s Leading to Fatal Work Injuries

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        When the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics released its National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries report, the data showed a concerning trend: that the fatal work injury rate rose by 5.7 percentage points in 2022. Tragically, this accounts for a worker dying from a work-related injury every 96 minutes that year. This is the highest fatality rate since 2016.

        Experts are still analyzing what caused workplace fatalities to rise, yet some trends are beginning to surface that may point to the culprit. See what they are and understand what organizations can do to counter serious injuries and fatalities (SIFs) to protect workers. 

        An overview of workplace fatalities in 2022

        The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ report, released December 2023 in partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor, found there were 5,486 fatal work injuries in the United States in 2022. This was a 5.7% increase over the 5,190 reported in 2021. It accounted for 3.7 fatalities per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, up from 3.6 in 2022 and 3.4 in 2021. 

        Fatality data has been trending upward since 2013, and officials are acutely aware. As shared in a statement by the Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety:

        “Each of these deaths cruelly impacts these workers’ families, friends, co-workers and communities. They are clear reminders of the important work that must be done. OSHA and its thousands of professionals across the nation are determined to enforce the law while working with employers, workers, labor unions, trade associations and other stakeholders to ensure that every worker in the U.S. ends their workday safely."

        Workplace fatalities by the numbers

        The report compiled comprehensive data of fatal work injuries across all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, with a goal of monitoring workplace safety and informing private and public health efforts to improve it. 

        For the data to be included, the deceased must have been employed at the time of the incident, and have been fulfilling a legal work activity or been present at the site as a requirement of their job. (Note, this data does not include information on incidents that occurred during a person’s commute to or from their work.)

        Some key findings about the makeup of those affected include:

        • The share of Black or African American workers and Hispanic or Latino workers fatally injured on the job increased from 2021 to 2022, with rates up from 4.0 to 4.2 and 4.5 to 4.6 per 100,000 FTE workers, respectively. Both of these groups’ rates were higher than the all-worker rate of 3.7. 
        • Women made up 8.1% of all workplace fatalities. 
        • Workers between the ages of 55-64 suffered 1,175 fatalities, making them the highest number among age groups in 2022.

        The report also showcased information about the types of work and incidents in which the fatalities occurred: 

        • While transportation incidents increased consecutively in 2021 and 2022, transportation incidents continue to be down 2.6% from pre-pandemic levels in 2019 (when there were 2,122 fatalities).
        • Roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicles increased 9.3% between 2021-2022, leading to a series high of 1,369 fatalities. However, pedestrian vehicular incidents trended down to 3.6% in 2022 with 325 fatalities, the lowest number since 2018.
        • Exposure to harmful substances or environments led to 839 worker fatalities in 2022, the highest figure since the series began in 2011. This increase is due in a large part to unintentional overdoses, which created 60% of the fatalities in this category. 
        • Work related fatalities due to falls, slips, and trips increased 1.8% in 2022 over 2021. Most fatalities in this category (nearly 81%) were from falls to lower levels.

        What might be causing the increase?

        While experts continue to analyze what may have caused the increase in fatal work injuries in 2022, trends across industries could lend insights. In a survey, work safety publication EHS Today asked 1,100 safety professionals about the biggest workplace challenges they faced. The top answer was clear: they need more support – more employees, more staff, and more resources. As shared in the article

        “One of the lasting impacts of the pandemic is that it has driven many people out of the workplace entirely, forcing employers to scramble for ways to keep making and delivering products despite shrinking or remotely-located staff. As a result, safety leaders find themselves having to constantly train new workers (when they can find them), while reinforcing a consistent safety message throughout the workforce.”

        How organizations can help prevent fatalities at work

        One of the most important actions organizations can take to prevent injuries and fatalities at work is to have systems in place that monitor and track incidents. In the Campbell Institute’s white paper Serious Injury and Fatality Prevention: Leading Indicators, Cumulative Risk and Safety Networks, it found that SIF prevention starts with indicators that are proactive, preventive and predictive. The best indicators typically have similar characteristics. They are: 

        • Achievable
        • Actionable
        • Explainable
        • Meaningful
        • Timely
        • Transparent
        • Useful
        • Valid

        One way to help organizations track these important indicators and infuse them throughout their EHS strategy is through the support of technology. The EHS Today survey found leaders are more and more turning to the latest technology to help:

        “Safety budgets are being used on technologies that have continued to advance in capabilities over the past several years, particularly for various digital solutions, such as artificial intelligence, data-based analytics tools, Internet of Things sensors, wearable apps and mobile devices, and virtual reality-based training modules and equipment.”

        The data from the 2022 workplace fatalities report shines a light on the importance of protecting workers. Organizations must continue to address, review and update their EHS strategies to ensure everyone is protected when they step onto a job site. 

        How DevonWay can help

        If your organization is looking to improve its SIF prevention and EHS strategy, Ideagen DevonWay can help. Through its single, secure platform that aligns information and measures from across the organization, Ideagen DevonWay empowers people to take action before incidents occur and enables post-incident analysis to improve safety going forward. Safety best practices are built in based on extensive experience working with high-reliability industries like nuclear power plants, national labs, and global engineering firms. Request a demo today to see how it can improve your organization's EHS strategy and help protect workers.