Fatal occupational injuries were up by 7% in 2016 over 2015, according to the most recently-reported figures released by the federal government.
The year also saw the first time in nearly a decade that the total number of work-related deaths surpassed 5,000, reaching 5,190.
Work injuries involving transportation incidents remained the most common fatalities in 2016, accounting for 2,083, or 40%, of all fatal incidents, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.
Violence committed by people or animals increased 23% to become the second-leading cause of work- related deaths, accounting for 866 deaths. This number includes homicides, which rose by 83 to reach 500, and suicides, which were up by 62 to reach a total of 291 in 2016.
Deaths attributed to slip, fall and trip incidents – among the most common workplace accidents – rose by 6%, reaching a total of 849 deaths. Up 22% were deaths caused by exposure to harmful substances or environments.
Workplace overdoses from non-medical use of drugs or alcohol jumped 32%, from 165 in 2015 to 217 in 2016. Since 2012, overdose fatalities have continued to rise by at least 25% each year. They were up from 73 in 2011 to 217 in 2016.
Loren Sweatt, the Department of Labor deputy assistant secretary for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, noted that the crisis arising from the misuse of opioids “is impacting Americans every day at home and, as this data demonstrates, increasingly on the job. DOL will work with public and private stakeholders to help eradicate the opioid crisis as a deadly and growing workplace issue.”
The National Safety Council, which offers safety programs for employers, commented, “Every worker deserves a safe work environment and to return home safely at the end of each work day.” This includes having policies and training in place to address the major causes of fatalities as well as emerging issues such as prescription opioid misuse and fatigue.”