2021 Workplace Injury Statistics
Federal agencies such as the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics), OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), and NSC (National Safety Council) publish statistics about workplace injuries and fatalities each year. We are including the most recent 2020 figures released by the BLS on November 3, 2021 as well as figures released in 2020 for 2019 because 2019 was the last year to be unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This article will highlight important facts and figures and summarize others so that you can examine trends.
In 2019 the United States experienced 173,040 preventable deaths and 48.3 million injuries overall. Work-related deaths increased by 2% for the second year in a row to 4,572. Unfortunately, that number doesn’t tell the entire story as it leaves out 762 murders and homicides that happened in the workplace.
Which industries are the most dangerous?
This depends upon the criteria you use to define “dangerous.” For example, if you look solely at the number of deaths, construction is the most dangerous industry. However, if you look at the highest death rate per 100,000 workers, agriculture wins the unpleasant title. If you are more concerned with injuries, illnesses, and days away from work, transportation and warehousing are the most treacherous industries.
The NSC lists the numbers of medically consulted injuries (injuries severe enough to prompt a consultation with a medical professional) from 2019 broken down by industry sector:
Educational and health services 850,000
Retail trade 500,000
Leisure and hospitality 390,000
Transportation and warehousing 290,000
Professional and business services 240,000
Other services 150,000
Agriculture (including forestry, fishing, and hunting) 130,000
Wholesale trade 100,000
Financial activities 100,000
Mining (including oil and gas extraction) 10,000
Mark Twain once said that there were “lies, damned lies, and statistics,” to illustrate the fact that statistics would give a false impression. The figures above are somewhat misleading because they don’t take into account the numbers of workers employed in each sector. If you wondered why there were so many injuries for government workers, it’s because there are so many government workers — 19.77 million in 2020, to be precise. When the list is ranked in order of injuries per 100,000 workers, it is easier to see the dangerous industries:
Agriculture (including forestry, fishing, and hunting) 22.1 injuries per 100,000
Mining (including oil and gas extraction) 14.5 injuries per 100,000
Transportation and warehousing 13.3 injuries per 100,000
Construction 9.2 injuries per 100,000
Which states are the most dangerous?
- Work-related deaths are most prevalent in Alaska (1 deaths per 100,000 workers).
- In 2019, Louisiana had 6.2 work-related deaths for every 100,000 workers, a figure considerably higher than the 5.1 per 100,000 in 2018, but about average for the years 2011-2019.
- In 2019, Mississippi had 5.2 work-related deaths for every 100,000 workers. This was much lower than the 2018 rate of 6.7 in 2018 – and was the lowest death rate in all of the years between 2011-2019.
- The state with the lowest work-related death rate in 2019 was Connecticut, at 4 deaths per 100,000 workers.
What are the most common workplace injuries and how are they caused?
Injuries ranked by BLS:
- Sprains, strains, and tears
- Bruises and contusions
- Cuts and lacerations
- Multiple traumatic injuries with sprains
- Thermal burns
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Chemical burns
- Multiple traumatic injuries with fractures
Top 5 causes of injuries and numbers of incidents:
- Overexertion and bodily reaction 275,590
- Falls, slips, and trips 244,000
- Contact with objects or equipment 229,410
- Transportation 49,430
- Violence from persons or animals 44,480
BLS statistics for 2020 released in November of 2021:
The figures for 2020 are misleading because so many people either lost their jobs, worked from home, or worked in businesses that operated in a different way than they had up until then.
- The rate of injuries decreased from 2.6 cases per 100 FTE (full-time equivalent) workers in 2019 to 2.1 in 2020.
- However, the rate of illnesses increased from 12.4 cases per 10,000 FTE workers to 55.9. This was attributed to the rise in respiratory illness cases, which increased from 1.1 cases per 10,000 to 44.0 cases, a nearly 4,000% increase.
- All together, there were 1,176,340 nonfatal injuries and illnesses that caused a private industry worker to miss at least one day of work in 2020, 32.4% higher than in 2019.
- 10 industries accounted for 38.3% of private industry cases involving days away from work.
- The median number of days lost per incident increased from 8 in 2019 to 12 in 2020
Top 8 industries with DAFW (days away from work) in 2020:
- Nursing assistants: 249.7% increase from 2019
- Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses
- Registered nurses: increase of 290.8% from 2020
- Laborers and freight, stock and material movers
- Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers: 9.4% decrease
- Maintenance and repair workers
- Stockers and order fillers
- Retail salespersons
The Bureau of Labor Statistics will release the second part of its report on December 16, 2021. This will provide statistics from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) of all fatal work injuries occurring in the U.S. during 2020.
Statistics don’t always tell the whole story. Yes, it is encouraging that fewer workers died of work-related injuries in 2019 than in 2018, but those 5,333 deaths were tragic, and those absent workers left behind grieving families and friends. Even one injury — or one death — is too many. The final few lines of John Donne’s iconic 1624 poem express this:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
If you have been injured or a loved one has lost their life in a work-related accident in Mississippi or Louisiana, contact the experienced and compassionate attorneys at Lunsford, Baskin, & Priebe, PLLC for assistance in navigating the labyrinthian workers’ compensation process. Contact us.