We have come a long way in improving working conditions, but somehow workplace injury statistics are still very high. There are still some companies that stubbornly refuse to improve work safety, and, let's be honest, many accidents could have been avoided by paying more attention, too.
Sadly, we are working more and more, and when employees are tired and stressed out, you can't really expect them to be careful. So, this is an issue on many different levels, and it requires a holistic approach. Let's take a look at some current statistics so you get a better idea of what we’re talking about.
Important Workplace Injury Facts (Editor’s Picks)
- 5,333 US workers had fatal work-related injuries in 2019.
- US workers aged 55 and above accounted for 38% of all workplace deaths in 2019.
- 2.8m nonfatal injuries were reported in US workplaces in 2019.
- Approximately 20% of all US worker fatalities in 2019 were in the construction sector.
- OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is seriously understaffed, with just one inspector for every 70,000 workers in the US.
- Workplace accidents statistics show that injuries like overexertion, slips, trips, and falls, account for 84% of nonfatal injuries in the US.
- Office workers are two times more likely to get a disabling injury from a fall than workers in other industries.
- More than one million US employees suffer back injuries every year.
Workplace Injury Statistics
1. 5,333 US workers lost their lives from a work-related injury in 2019.
(Bureau of Labor Statistics)
This is a 2% increase compared to the 5,250 deaths in 2018. But because there was an increase in employment in that period, the fatal work injury rates remained the same, with 3.5 fatalities per 100,000 full-time workers. The numbers don’t seem very high compared to the total number of employees in the US, but it is still a whole small town disappearing each year from work-related injuries.
2. Workplace death statistics show that US workers aged 55 and over accounted for 38% of all workplace fatalities in 2019.
(Bureau of Labor Statistics)
As we get older, we are more likely to get injured due to our reduced flexibility and ability to keep focus. Another important factor is that workers at this age are usually very experienced, which creates a false belief that they don’t have to be careful. The “I’ve seen it all” mindset isn’t appropriate for any work environment, especially in high-risk industries such as construction or logging.
3. The US private sector had 2.8m nonfatal injuries and illnesses in 2019.
(Bureau of Labor Statistics)
The rate works out to 2.8 workers per 100 full-time employees, and it hasn’t changed since 2017. The highest incidence during the last decade happened in 2010 when 3.5 per 100 fully-employed workers had reported nonfatal injuries at work.
4. The most common workplace injuries like overexertion, slips, trips, and falls account for more than 84% of all nonfatal workplace injuries in the US.
(National Safety Council)
Transportation, warehousing, construction, and agriculture are the industries with the highest probabilities of injuries. What’s interesting is that the type of injury is age-related. People over 45 are most prone to overexertion and bodily reaction. People over 55 are most susceptible to falls, slips, trips. And young people aged from 16 to 24 should be more careful about bumping into things and sharp objects. They are most likely to get cuts and lacerations.
5. Workplace fatality statistics show that 20% of US worker fatalities in 2019 were in construction.
Construction has always been a high-risk industry. What’s worrying is that this hasn’t changed over time. Even though the procedures, materials, and technology have evolved a lot, the sector is still coping with a high number of work-related injuries and deaths. Falls, being hit by an object or stuck between two objects, and electrocution are responsible for nearly two-thirds (59.8%) of all fatal accidents in construction.
6. There’s just one OSHA inspector for every 70,000 workers in the US.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is responsible for American workplace safety. The agency has just 1,850 inspectors. They are responsible for the health and safety of 130 million employees, scattered over eight million worksites across the US. That’s a lot of ground to cover, and the number of inspectors hardly seems adequate. In fact, this is the lowest number of inspectors since the early 1970s, when the agency was still new.
7. In 2015, workers’ compensation programs in the US paid out $61.9 billion in worker benefits.
Workers’ compensation statistics indicate that construction companies are spending a lot of money on work-related injuries. The National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) estimated that construction companies spend 3.6% of their total employee budget on workers’ compensation. This is actually two times higher than the average in other sectors. They also state that the average claim in 2015 was $13,540.
8. As of August, Australia had 73 total workplace fatalities in 2021
(Safe Work Australia)
According to the Safe Work Australia preliminary findings’, the number of work-related deaths has declined significantly compared to the same period in 2020 (120 total worker deaths). The most dramatic improvements can be seen in the agriculture, forestry & fishing, and the public administration & safety sectors.
9. Alaska has six times more work-related deaths per 100,000 workers than Rhode Island.
Alaska and Wyoming have the highest job fatality rates in the United States. They are followed by North Dakota, West Virginia, and South Dakota. We can’t say we are surprised that Alaska is number one on the list. Wild landscapes and harsh weather conditions make up for a very inhospitable working environment. But this is not the only reason. Many high-ranking states have enormous stretches of wild nature and scattered cities and hospitals. When there is no medical help in the vicinity, a severe work injury is more likely to become a fatality.
10. Maine, Vermont, Montana, and Washington have more than four injuries per 100 workers annually.
Workplace injury statistics by state show that the highest rates of injuries are in the states with economies based on agriculture, construction, and manufacture. Since those professions are on the top of the high-risk occupations list, the results are not very surprising. To put things into perspective, the national average is 2,8, and the lowest rate is 1.4, recorded in the Virgin Islands.
Interesting Workplace Injury Stats
11. 888,220 nonfatal workplace injuries in the US resulted in time away from work in 2019.
(Bureau of Labor Statistics)
And 33.2% of them can be accredited to ten occupations. Nursing assistants, truck drivers, laborers, and construction workers are at the top of the list. Most of these occupations have a high risk of injuries, so that’s hardly surprising. What’s worrying, though, is that the number of cases increased in all occupations by at least 10% from 2018. We have yet to see conclusive nonfatal workplace injury statistics for 2020 and 2021 but here’s hoping that things have improved.
12. Office workers are two times more likely to get a disabling injury from a fall than other workers.
(Albert Einstein College of Medicine)
How can people get hurt in an office? Although offices seem pretty safe compared to Alaskan fishing boats or oil rigs in the Northern Sea, they are not without risks. Office injury statistics show that workers there are two times more likely to suffer an injury from a fall than in any other workplace. When we work in a safe environment, we stop being careful, and we do some foolish things. Just take a look at the most common office injuries:
- Tripping over an open desk or file drawer, electrical cords, loose carpeting, or objects in hallways
- Trying to reach for something while sitting in an unstable chair
- Using a chair instead of a ladder
- Sliding on wet floors
13. Workplace safety statistics show that we now have almost five times fewer accidents per 100 workers than 50 years ago.
When OSHA was just starting out back in the 70s, the number of work accidents and deaths was very high. On average, there were 38 worker deaths each day in the US, and the number for 2019 is 15 a day. The number of work accidents was reduced from 10.9 per 100 workers in 1972 to just 2.8 in 2019.
14. In 2015, US employers paid more than $1 billion per week for direct workers' compensation.
Workplace injury cost statistics show that employers paid $61 billion for direct workers' compensation for nonfatal injuries. These are not the only expenses that work-related accidents bring. Medical costs, absence from work, and many other expenses increase this sum. The National Safety Council estimated the total loss for the US economy due to work-related injuries was $151 billion in 2016. To put things in perspective, this is greater than the gross domestic product (GDP) of a large number of countries worldwide.
15. Each year, more than one million US employees suffer back injuries.
(University of Maryland)
Furthermore, workplace back injury statistics show that they account for around 20% of all workplace injuries or illnesses. Back injuries are also behind 25% of all compensation claims. The most common reasons for back injuries are lifting, carrying, and lowering heavy items.
16. Approximately 800,000 eye injuries happen every year in the United States.
Around 90% of them are preventable, the experts from Prevent Blindness America say. Wearing proper eye protection and identifying all the places where caution is needed could significantly improve these workplace eye injury statistics. The most common eye injuries are hot oil and chemical burns, cuts, lacerations, and punctures. Eye injuries cost the economy around $300 million annually in lost production time, different medical expenses, and workers’ compensation.
Over the past half-century, things have improved a lot regarding workers’ safety. Nevertheless, some worrying trends are emerging. After a period of constant decline in injury rates, the trajectory started going upwards in certain areas during 2020. There is no simple explanation for current workplace injury statistics. Are the companies the only ones we should blame, or are the employees also getting careless? Some managers say they are frustrated that the large amounts of money and effort placed into improving work safety aren’t showing expected results. Are we getting more reckless, believing that we don’t have to pay attention anymore? Work-related injuries can happen anytime and anywhere. Just because a workplace is inherently safer than another (i.e., office work vs. toiling away in salt mines) doesn’t mean we should throw caution to the wind.