US worker deaths have declined steadily for past two decades

The rate of fatal workplace injuries in the US is 25 percent lower than it was in 2006 and it's been trending downward for the past two decades, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The decline in certain dangerous occupations, as well as better regulations, have contributed.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
A District of Columbia ambulance passes Howard University Hospital in Washington.

Plenty of things are getting worse for the American worker these days: Wages are depressed, and part-time and unpredictable shift work are on the rise. But one thing is improving: workplace safety.

The rate of fatal workplace injuries in the United States is 25 percent lower than it was in 2006 and has been trending downward for the past two decades, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In 1993 there were 5 fatal workplace injuries per 100,000 full-time workers; there were 4.2 in 2006, and in 2013 there were 3.2 per 100,000 – nearly 60 percent less than in 1993.

There are a few reasons. The most dangerous jobs are outdoor-labor occupations, and they are dwindling. Logging, for example, has the highest rate of fatal workplace injuries (91.1 per 100,000), and jobs in that industry are projected to drop 9 percent by 2022, according to the BLS. Jobs in the second-most-deadly industry – fishing – are expected to fall by 5 percent.

But the improvement goes beyond the makeup of the job market, says Bob Bruno, a professor of labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois in Chicago. He also credits regulations and other steps taken by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“We’re still doing incredibly dangerous jobs,” he says, noting the rise of new high-risk occupations in the natural-gas industry. “We’ve just accepted to a large extent that it is incredibly important to invest upfront in health and safety.” An unsafe workplace, he adds, “becomes very expensive to operate, and that can make [businesses] uncompetitive....”

Which industries are doing best? “Coal production and manufacturing are much safer [than before],” Mr. Bruno says. “Auto companies have invested a lot in their safety training.”

One big job sector, though, could use improvement. “There are a lot of injuries and exposure issues in health care,” he says. “That could benefit from greater focus.”

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to US worker deaths have declined steadily for past two decades
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Points-of-Progress/2014/1103/US-worker-deaths-have-declined-steadily-for-past-two-decades
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe