According to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), work related deaths are down. See National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2013 (Preliminary Report), September 11, 2014. The preliminary data shows that there were 4,405 work related deaths in 2013, compared to 4,628 in 2012. However, it is important to note that the total number is expected to increase. The recent report is merely preliminary, and once the final data is in, the numbers are likely to increase.
Fatal Work Accidents in the U.S. Down, Cause to Celebrate?
In 2012, the final number of work related deaths was 245 more than the number of deaths reported in the preliminary report. Therefore, once the final data is in for 2013 and it shows a similar increase (by 245), then the total number of workplace fatalities will have risen from the prior year, 2012.
In other words, there is no cause to celebrate just yet. In fact, it’s very likely that rather than decreasing from year to year, the total number of workplace deaths is increasing. The BLS preliminary report for 2013 reveals two key numbers to support the theory that workplace fatalities are increasing.
First, the report reveals that fatal work injuries among Hispanic or Latino workers were higher in 2013, by about 7%. According to the report, there were nearly 800 deaths involving Hispanic or Latino workers in 2013, the highest number since 2008.
Second, the report also reveals that fatal work injuries among independent contractors (i.e., temp workers) has increased. In 2013, there were 734 deaths involving contractors, as opposed to 715 in 2012.
These two numbers highlight a growing trend in the U.S. workforce. Employers are increasingly turning to cheap labor in order to cut costs and churn higher profits. This in turn leads to unsafe work practices and unnecessary work related deaths. This explains the increase in fatal work injuries for Hispanic/Latino workers and independent contractors.
In addition, the number of Hispanic/Latino workers killed in work related accidents in 2013 is probably much higher than the preliminary report suggests. This is due to employment of undocumented workers. If a work accident is reported, and many are not, the family of an undocumented worker who is killed in a work related accident may be too afraid of deportation to file reports or otherwise take any type of legal action. Workers’ compensation claims are never filed, let alone third party lawsuits to recover financial losses and pain and suffering.
Here’s the reality. U.S. employers face increasing costs amid an economy with barely a pulse. This creates a situation where employers have to cut corners. Hiring untrained workers and using independent contractors often lead to unsafe work practices. This in turn leads to more work accident injuries and deaths. While it would be nice to think that work accident injuries and deaths are decreasing, the truth is that workers in this country face an increased risk of being injured in work accidents.