RealClearScience Journal Club

Science Figures Interpreted and Analyzed by RealClearScience

How Many Americans Die at Work?

By Alex B. Berezow

Most Americans don't think twice about workplace safety. Perhaps they should. In newly updated numbers for 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 4,628 Americans met their demise while on the job.

Which jobs had the most fatalities? See the first chart.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, people who work in construction and transportation had the largest share of deaths. Combined, these occupations account for nearly half of all workplace fatalities. Protective service employees (firefighters, police officers, etc.) had a lower share of deaths than most people would probably expect.

But, the total number of deaths does not truly represent how risky a job is. For that, we need to know the rate of deaths for each occupation, which is calculated by dividing the number of deaths in that occupation by the number of full-time equivalent workers in the occupation. BLS performed that calculation and, by far, the most dangerous occupation was farming, fishing and forestry, with a mortality rate of 24.8 per 100,000. Transportation was second at 15.2 per 100,000, and construction was third at 12.9 per 100,000.

(Note: For information on what kinds of jobs are included under each occupation group, see this BLS website.)

How are people dying at work? BLS calculated that, too:

Accidents involving transporation led the way. Unsettlingly, homicides accounted for more than 10% of workplace fatalities. And simply falling down is an underappreciated cause of death. 704 Americans met their demise after taking a wrong step.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, in cooperation with state, New York City, District of Columbia, and federal agencies, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, 2014.

(AP photo)

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