Safety Industry News

Worker Fatalities Slightly Decrease, But ASSP Wants Safer Workplaces

The American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP), the world’s oldest professional safety organization, is calling on employers to take well-known steps to protect America’s workers from fatal injuries in response to newly released data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While the BLS reported this week that fatal occupational injuries decreased in 2017 for the first time in four years, the drop was minimal. There were 5,147 workplace deaths in the United States last year, down just 0.8 percent from the 2016 level of 5,190. The fatal injury rate per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers decreased from 3.6 to 3.5.

“This level of worker safety and health is not acceptable,” said ASSP President Rixio Medina, CSP, CPP. “There needs to be greater energy and a stronger national focus on preventing serious injuries and fatalities on the job. Most of these incidents are preventable, and they are occurring far too often in every industry.”

The BLS data also showed that a disproportionate number of Hispanic and Latino workers die on the job, with the 2017 rate remaining at 3.7 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers. It’s the highest rate for any race or ethnic origin. Fatal falls were at their highest level in the 26-year history of the report, accounting for 887 worker deaths (17.2 percent). Transportation incidents were again the most frequent fatal event in 2017 with 2,077 workplace deaths (40.4 percent).

“We will continue to push for greater education and widespread improvement through a multi-stakeholder approach that must involve government agencies, business leaders, advocacy groups, labor unions and professional associations,” Medina said. “Significant change is needed in workplace safety cultures to better protect workers and ensure that they return home to their families every day.”

While the 5,147 fatal occupational injuries in 2017 reflected a slight decrease from the previous year, the number is significantly higher than other years, such as the 4,551 worker deaths reported in 2009. Improvement may be anchored in the adoption of occupational safety and health management systems such as the new ISO 45001 global standard, greater implementation of managed fall protection programs, stronger fleet safety programs and the use of proven risk assessment techniques.

“It’s really about bringing best practices into the spotlight at all companies in every industry, such as prevention through design and risk management approaches,” Medina said. ”We believe the proper implementation of a safety and health management system can help protect workers and improve a company’s bottom line. Then everybody wins."

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