Every year, millions of people are injured in the workplace. Many of these injuries are unavoidable accidents. No matter how many safety regulations are put in place, some injuries are either unavoidable or unforeseeable. However, many workplace accidents are entirely preventable through following government and industry-mandated safety procedures. (You only need to take a look at r/OSHA to see that safety regulations are sometimes ignored.)
What’s worse is that many of these workplace injuries result in death. In 2013 (the most recent year for which there’s data available), there were 4.8 million workplace injuries and 3,700 workplace deaths. While still relatively uncommon, each death is a tragedy that businesses and government should take every measure to avoid.
To better understand the problem, we researched the most common causes of workplace injuries and deaths in the United States.
Most workplace injuries happen in the government sector, followed by Educational and Health Services and Manufacturing.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics collects data on overall workplace injuries by job sector. An injury can be anything from a relatively minor scrape to a serious wound. The most injuries of all types occur in the government sector because relatively more people work in government than in more dangerous professions like construction, for example.
The most commonly injured body parts are the trunk, legs, and head.
According to BLS data, workplace injuries most frequently occur on the trunk, which makes up 233,340 cases, or 30%. After that, leg injuries make up 30% of the total, and injuries on the head comprise 10%. A catchall category—“multiple parts”—makes up 13%.
Most workplace deaths occur in construction, transportation, and warehousing.
As you may expect, construction workers are the single largest group represented in workplace deaths with 770 deaths reported in 2013 (again the year with the most recent data available). Approximately one in five workplace deaths in the United States happen on construction sites.
After construction, transportation and warehousing make up the second largest portion of workplace deaths, with 625, or 17% of the total.
Falls are the leading cause of construction site injuries
According to OSHA data, falls account for the largest single portion of workplace injuries. While most of the rest of workplace injuries are uncategorized, the next leading causes are being caught in or between machinery and electrocutions.
But these numbers are just the raw total number of incidents. To really see which professions are the most dangerous, we have to look at the number of workplace deaths relative to the number of workers in the industry.
Per capita, the most dangerous sectors are agriculture, mining, and transportation.
It actually turns out that agriculture is the single most dangerous industry, in terms of workplace fatalities, accounting for approximately 21.7 deaths per 100k full-time workers. Mining follows next with 12.2, then transportation and warehousing with 11.9. Construction comes in fourth with 9.1 fatalities per 100k full-time workers.
It’s worth keeping in perspective that on-the-job fatalities only make up a relatively small portion of the accidental deaths in the United States.
More than half of accidental deaths happen at home.
66,000 accidental deaths—about 50.7%—happen at home. Just over a quarter—25.3% happen on-the-job. The vast majority of the rest happen in public, mostly by automobile accident.
Even though some professions are more dangerous, accidental death can happen to anyone. Safety is important for everyone. If you’re ever put in a dangerous position at work, bring it up with your supervisor, and, if that doesn’t work, consider hiring a lawyer.