Earlier today, NPR’s Morning Edition dedicated a segment to the latest figure on workplace deaths: 5,488 workers died from fatal work injuries last year. That’s the lowest number since the government started keeping statistics in 1992.
Libby Lewis interviewed David Michaels about the drop; he noted that some of the reduction is due to improvements (like tougher penalties for drivers in work zones, which keeps highway workers safer), but that a lot of it’s due to a shift in the kind of work being done. Many high-hazard jobs have moved overseas, and the economic slowdown has meant fewer construction jobs.
Speaking of those construction jobs, Lewis highlights an alarming trend: an increase in the number of falling deaths, despite the overall decrease in fatalities. Last year, 833 workers fell to their deaths. We’ve pointed out here before that U.S. workplaces desperately need better fall protection, and this statistic gives us another reason to say it again.
Fewer U.S. workplace deaths is good news for American workers – but last year, 5,488 workers’ families got the worst news about their loved ones. We still have a long way to go on workplace safety.