OSHA FatalitiesAt yesterday’s House hearing, Eric Hobbes, representing the US Chamber of Commerce, cited a rise in workplace fatalities in 2016 as proof that OSHA’s approach focusing on standards, enforcement and strong media coverage doesn’t work. But according to an analysis performed by the AFL-CIO, a closer look at 2016 fatality data shows that Hobbs’ argument is completely wrong. In fact, it shows just the opposite.

In 2016, the number and rate of fatalities did go up overall. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, 5,190 workers died on the job in 2016, a 7-percent increase from the 4,836 fatal injuries reported in 2015.

But when you look at the data by industry sector (see below) you see that in the industries where OSHA and MSHA focused their efforts — particularly in manufacturing and mining — fatality rates went down or, in the construction sector, stayed the same.  The fact that construction deaths did not increase was remarkable given the huge increase in construction employment and activity in 2016. Historically, increases in construction activity coincide with increases in fatalities, as well as fatality rates.

The entire increase in 2016 was in industries where OSHA has no jurisdiction or focuses few inspection resources, specifically Transportation and Warehousing, Agriculture, Utilities, and Government. Transportation fatalities accounted for 40 percent of fatalities in 2016. In fact, in virtually every other industry besides construction, manufacturing and mining, fatality rates went up or stayed the same.

Attached is a historical table table that includes the latest 2016 data.

Workplace Fatality Rates by Industry Sector Hours Based 2007-2016

Industry Sector2007200820092010201120122013201420152016
All Industries
Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting2730.427.227.924.922.823.225.622.823.2
Mining, Quarrying, and Oil and Gas Extraction21.418.112.419.815.915.912.414.211.410.1
Wholesale Trade4.54.454.
Retail Trade2.422.
Transportation and Warehousing16.514.913.313.715.314.614.014.113.814.3
Financial Activities1.
Professional and Business Services3.
Educational and Health Services0.
Leisure and Hospitality2.
Other Services, Except Public Administration2.72.62.8332.72.72.733.2
Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries.
-Deaths per 100,000 workers.
- In 2008, CFOI switched to an hours-based fatality rate calculation from an employment-based calculation. Fatality rates for 2007 were calculated using both approaches during the transition to hours-based rates. Fatality rate is an hours-based calculation using total hours worked figures that are annual average estimates of total at work multiplied by average hours for civilians, 16 years of age and older, from the Current Population Survey (CPS). Hours-based fatality rates should not be compared directly with employment-based rates that CFOI calculated for 1992 to 2007.

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