Fatal Work Injuries Rise to Highest Level

Fatal occupational injuries in California jumped to their highest level since 2008, rising to over 400 deaths for the first time in nearly 10 years.

The Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) reported in December that there were 422 job-related deaths in 2018, a sharp increase from 376 in 2017 and the first total above 400 since 2009 when 409 fatal injuries were recorded.

Transportation incidents continued to be the leading cause of death with 155, followed by violence by other persons or animals with 92 and slips, trips and falls with 73.

Latinx and Hispanic workers continued to account for the bulk of work-related deaths – nearly half – at 43 percent, a troubling statistic that continues to be an area of concern, the DIR said in its press release.

Workers aged 55 and older accounted for nearly a third at 32 percent.

The fact that Latinx and older workers continue to account for such high percentages should be a wake-up call for employers and those charged with regulating safe workplaces to do more to protect these workers and help ensure their safety. More outreach and training for these individuals should be a top priority.

One positive takeaway – if you can call it that – is that the rate of fatal workplace incidences per 100,000 workers remained relatively flat at 2.3, up slightly from 2.2 in 2017 and still below the national rate of 3.5.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported there were 5,250 workplace deaths nationally in 2018, up from 5,147 in 2017. Texas had the highest total with 488, followed by California with 422 and Florida with 332.

When employers fail to provide safe workplaces and adequate training, it’s always the worker who suffers – sometimes at the cost of their lives. We must do better to ensure workers are protected, trained and provided with the best safety equipment with the hope that one day, job-related deaths will be a thing of the past and we can move beyond this unacceptable reality.

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