Workers Compensation: AFL-CIO Report Indicates Workers Still at Risk on the Job

Whether or not you are a member of a union, work place injury and death can leave families out of work and struggling to make ends meet. Even with workplace safety reforms through the twentieth and twenty-first centuries changes still need to be made as workers are still at risk for injury and tragically, even death.

Article by Steven Cohn

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) compiles a report each year on the number of deaths on the job in America. Their 2017 edition of the report, “Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect” reveals that workplace deaths and injuries are still occurring far too often.

This marks the 26th year the AFL-CIO has completed this report, and though progress has been made, much remains to be done to protect workers on the job.

Report Shows States with Highest Fatality Rates

According to the report, a total of 4,836 workers were killed on the job in the U.S. in 2015, with the fatal injury rate remaining the same as it was in 2014. Nearly 3.7 million workers were injured while working, and it’s likely this number is lower than the actual number, since “underreporting is widespread” according to the authors.

The AFL-CIO also listed the states with the highest fatality rates. These included North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana, with fatality rates ranging from 5.8 per 100,000 workers to 12.5 per 100,000 workers.

Latino and immigrant workers remain at the highest risk of all workers, with the Latino fatality rate coming in at 4.0 per 100,000 workers, a rate that is 18 percent higher than the national average. Deaths among Latinos also increased in 2015, totaling 903 compared to 804 in 2014. Sixty-seven percent of Latino workers killed on the job were immigrants.

Older workers also remain at high risk, with 35 percent of all fatalities occurring in those 55 years of age or older. In total, workers 65 years or older have more than 2.5 times the risk of dying on the job as other workers.

Construction Industry Leads the Pack in Fatalities

As to what industries remain the most dangerous, there are not many surprises. The construction, transportation, and agricultural industries remain dangerous, as do the mining and extraction industries. The highest number of fatalities occurred in the construction industry and that rate has increased for the second year in a row. The transportation industry was the second most dangerous.

Workplace violence also continues to be a problem, with 703 workers killed by violence on the job. Women suffered 68 percent of the lost-time injuries related to workplace violence.

OSHA Ill-Equipped to Handle All Inspections

About half a million lives have been saved since the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) of 1970. The AFL-CIO states that OSHA resources for oversight are still too few, however, with only 1,838 inspectors available to inspect eight million workplaces under the Act’s jurisdiction. That means that federal OSHA has enough inspectors to inspect workplaces only once every 159 years, and state OSHA has enough to inspect workplaces only once every 99 years.

Though OSHA enforcement has gotten stronger, penalties are still too weak, the AFL-CIO says, with the average fine totaling only about $2,402 for federal and $1,747 for state. They note that workers’ safety and health protections are in danger under the new administration, with worker protections threatened by executive orders that have weakened regulations and eased company safety requirements.

If you have any questions about safety where you work and have been injured while working please contact our office.

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