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Death on the Job: Workplace Safety Report
The AFL-CIO 2023 “Death on the Job” report shed light on the persistent neglect for safety in American workplaces and the deadly consequences. This comprehensive report, a tradition for the past 32 years, provides a wealth of information on workplace fatalities, injuries, illnesses, safety inspections, penalties, funding, and staffing under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).
“Workplace hazards kill and disable approximately 125,000 workers each year—5,190 from traumatic injuries, and an estimated 120,000 from occupational diseases,” noted the report. “Job injury and illness numbers continue to be severe undercounts of the real problem.”
Notably, the construction industry stands out with a fatality rate of 9.4 deaths per 100,000 workers—three times the average job fatality rate of 3.6 per 100,000 workers. Across all industries, 343 workers die daily due to hazardous working conditions. More than a third of workplace deaths were among workers aged 55 and above. Overall, Latino workers were at greatest risk of dying on the job, at 4.5 per 100,000 workers, which is 25% higher than the national average. Black workers had the highest rate of fatalities in more than a decade, at 4 deaths per 100,000 workers.
The cost of work-related injuries and illnesses is estimated to be between $174 billion and $348 billion annually. Underreporting is widespread. There is no data for musculoskeletal disorders from repetitive motion injuries and work-related heat illness, both common in construction.
The report noted that OSHA remains understaffed and has too few resources to enforce safety standards. There are just 1,871 inspectors to cover 10.8 million workplaces. Federal OSHA has only enough inspectors to visit a workplace every 190 years. There is just one inspector for every 77,334 workers, and OSHA only budgets $3.99 to protect each worker. Penalties for violations also remain insufficient, with the average penalty for a serious violation being $4,354 at the federal level and $2,221 at the state level. Surprisingly, only 128 worker death cases have faced criminal prosecution under the Occupational Safety and Health Act since 1970.
It is critical that employers who fail to adhere to workplace safety and health laws be held accountable when workers are injured. If you have been hurt in an unsafe workplace, you may be able to hold your employer accountable, and be eligible to receive compensation beyond workers’ compensation for their conduct, and may be able to sue others who were involved. Contact an OSHA-rated construction accident attorney in Philadelphia who can help present your best case.