BLS: Workplace Deaths Continue to Rise


By Liz Carey

Washington, DC ( – For the third year in a row, workplace fatalities have increased, to the highest level since 2010.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 5,190 fatal workplace injuries in 2016, a 7 percent increase over 2015. The increase brings the fatal injury rate to 3.6 per 100,000 full-time equivalent employees (FTE), up from a rate of 3.4 in 2015.

Fatalities as a result of transportation incidents accounted for 40 percent of the workplace fatalities, followed by violence and injury from people or animals. There were 866 deaths attributed to violence or injury by people or animals, up 23 percent from 2015. Workplace homicides increased to 500 incidents, the highest figure since 2010; and workplace suicide increased to 291 incidents, the highest figure since workplace fatality reporting began in 1992, the Bureau said.

Overdoses from the non-medical use of drugs or alcohol increased by 32 percent, from 165 in 2015, to 217 in 2016. Workplace deaths due to overdosing have increased by at least 25 percent annually since 2012.

In an interview with, analysts with the Bureau of Labor Statistics Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities (IIF) program said the offices do not make any judgements on what the data says and could not say which drugs were used.

“Our office publishes statistics on nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses from the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII) and fatal workplace injuries from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI),” Jill Janocha said. “We are purely a statistical agency and as such, we are unable to make assessments to causes outside what the data describe.”

A closer look at the data, however, showed that more than half of the overdoses (122) occurred in workers between the ages of 25 and 44, and more than half (180) of them were men. White workers were more likely to die by overdose (173) than any other race, and most of the overdoses happened in public buildings and parking lots. 

Similarly, more than half of the suicides (175) were between the ages of 25 and 54, with 264 of the suicides by men and 213 suicides by white workers. Suicides were mostly likely to be by gun (133) and more than two thirds of the suicides were in public buildings or parking lots.

Older workers continue to have higher rates of workplace fatal injuries, nearly three times higher than the rate for all workers, with a rate of 9.6 per 100,000 FTE for workers 65 and older, compared to a rate of 3.4 for all workers. Workers between the ages of 55 and 64 had a fatal injury rate of 4.3 per 100,000 FTE, while workers between 18 and 24 had a fatal injury rate of 2.1.

Workers at ages 55 and older had 1,848 fatal injuries, the largest number for this age group since reporting on fatal injuries began in 1992. That year, fatal injuries in workers age 55 and over accounted for 20 percent of all workplace fatalities. In 2016, they accounted for 36 percent.

The workplace is becoming more fatal for foreign-born workers as well. Foreign-born workers make up about 20 percent of the total fatal workplace injuries. Of those, 37 percent were born in Mexico, and 19 percent were from Asian countries.

Logging continued to be the most dangerous job, with more 91 fatal incidents, giving the occupation a rate of 135.9 per 100,000 FTE. The number of fatalities among loggers increased from 67 incidents in 2015 to 91 in 2016. 

Fatal injuries among protective services occupations also increased. Police officer homicides were up 50 percent over 2015, while the fatal injury rate among all of the protective service occupations — including crossing guards, lifeguards, ski patrol and other recreational protective service workers — increased by 32 percent.

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