Which Industries Have the Most Fatal Work Injuries?

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Work injuries

Workplace deaths are on the rise across the United States. A combination of specific and generalized dangers within industries and occupations made 2019 the deadliest year for workers in more than a decade. With workplace deaths on the rise, lawyers involved in Workers’ Compensation are handling more cases that need resolutions for the benefit of injured and dead workers and their families.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says 2019 was the deadliest year for American workers since 2007. Some 5,333 deaths due to injuries suffered while on the job is an average of one death for every 99 minutes across all industries and occupations. That is a two percent rise in workplace deaths, which equates to 3.5 deaths for every 100,000 hours of full-time equivalent workers in 2019.

The BLS says older workers are more prone to workplace injuries and deaths, with those age 55 and over accounting for 38 percent of all fatalities in the workplace. That is nearly double the 20 percent death rate among workers in that age group in 1992.

Likewise, Hispanic workers about doubled their respective workplace death rates. The BLS says Hispanic workers accounted for 20 percent of workplace deaths in 2019 versus nine percent in 1992.

Most Dangerous Industries Identified

The National Safety Council (NSC) identifies four general industries as roughly equal when it comes to determining the most dangerous industries in which to work based on 2019 data. Those four industries are:

  • Construction, which reported the most deaths.
  • Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting, which has the highest death rate per 100,000 workers.
  • Transportation and warehousing, which reported the highest rate for illness and injuries resulting in time away from work per 10,000 workers.
  • Government, which reported the highest number on nonfatal injuries and days away from work.

Certain industries clearly have relatively high rates of deaths and injuries resulting in days away from work. That does not mean every occupation within a particular industry is especially dangerous. Instead, it is the occupations within those respective industries that determine the level of danger.

For example, a governmental officer worker who is in a secure building seldom faces a threat worse than a potential slip and fall accident. That office worker likely has more benefits that make it much easier to take paid time off work because of a common cold than a worker with fewer work benefits and no ability to call in sick and still get paid.

On the other hand, a combat solider also is a government worker and faces truly life-and-death situations, sometimes far more often than others and certainly more often than governmental office workers. Therefore, the occupation plays a far more significant factor in workplace dangers than the actual industry.

Most Dangerous Occupations

Some industries have extended dangers that involve many occupations across a wide range of supporting industries. For example, homebuilders clearly are a part of the construction industry, which includes roofers, construction workers, and helpers. Truck drivers must bring materials to the construction site, and logging workers and structural steel and iron workers provide the raw materials.

Refuse and recyclable material collectors often clean up construction sites afterward, and grounds maintenance workers install the landscaping and continually return to maintain it. Fishing and hunting workers help to provide the food served at the dinner table.

All those occupations are listed among the 10 deadliest in the United States with exceptionally high fatal work injury rates, according to the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. The following are the 10 deadliest occupations based on the average number of deaths per 100,000 workers:

  • Hunting and fishing workers, who average 99.8 deaths.
  • Logging workers, who average 84.3 deaths.
  • Airplane pilots, who average 48.6 deaths.
  • Roofers, who average 45.2 deaths.
  • Recycled materials collectors, who average 35 deaths.
  • Steel and iron workers, who average 33.4 deaths.
  • Truck drivers and sales drivers, who average 26.8 deaths.
  • Farmers and ranchers, who average 24 deaths.
  • Landscaping and lawn maintenance workers, who average 21 deaths.
  • Utilities installation and repair workers, who average 18.7 deaths.

The deadliest occupations also often are the ones that produce a relatively high number of injuries that cause workers to take time off work. A quick look at the 10 deadliest occupations shows many are tied to the same industries, such as home construction and maintenance, transportation, and food production. Many often share similar workplace dangers.

Snapshot of Deadly Workplace Dangers

Commonly occurring workplace dangers account for injuries and deaths across virtually all industry categories. The types of workplace accidents that claimed the most lives in 2019 were as follows:

  • Transportation incidents, which caused 2,122 deaths.
  • Slips, trips, and falls, which claimed 880 lives.
  • Exposure to harmful substances or environments, which killed 642 workers.
  • Accidental overdoses caused by recreational use of drugs or alcohol, which claimed 313 lives.
  • Fires and explosions, which accounted for 99 lives.

The top causes of death suggest worker behaviors account for a significant number of deaths, but accidents beyond their control greatly claim the most lives across all industries, including slip and fall injuries, exposure to harmful substances or conditions, and fire and explosions.

Transportation jobs are especially deadly, especially when it involves driving a big rig on busy roads on a regular basis. These accidents may or not be the worker’s fault. In many cases, another party caused a deadly accident that claimed the lives of one or more workers.

How Maryland’s Workers’ Compensation Law Applies

Maryland law requires employers to carry Workers’ Compensation insurance that covers workers who are injured while working. If a worker is killed by an accident while on the job, Workers’ Compensation will provide financial benefits for a surviving spouse and dependent family members.

Workers’ Compensation has three primary benefits for injured workers and their families:

  • Injured workers obtain financial benefits right away instead of waiting for an insurance settlement or court judgment.
  • Employers cover virtually all medical costs.
  • Victims receive pay for lost wages and for any permanent disabilities.

When a worker files a claim for injuries or a family accepts a settlement because of a workplace death, the worker or family waives the right to sue the employer on accepting Workers’ Compensation benefits. The idea is to prevent costly lawsuits while enabling workers and their families to obtain settlement funds sooner.

The worker will not receive all lost wages but instead will obtain a percentage of his or her average weekly pay. The pay from Workers’ Compensation often is equal about 70 percent of that worker’s average weekly pay. The amount is reduced owing to the worker’s reduced cost by not having to go to work while recuperating from workplace injuries.

When a worker dies while on the job, Workers’ Compensation provides benefits to the surviving spouse and any dependents. The payment often is in a lump-sum settlement from the insurer and reflects anticipated lifetime earnings so that the family does not suffer a significant decline in quality of living.

When Workers and Their Families can Sue Employers

Although Workers’ Compensation essentially holds employers harmless for workplace accidents, that does not apply when the employer or its agents act in a grossly negligent manner. It certainly does not apply if the employer has too little coverage or none at all in violation of Maryland’s Workers’ Compensation law.

A lack of Workers’ Compensation coverage occurs more often when economic conditions significantly impair an employer’s finances, such as during a global pandemic that triggers economic lockdowns. When the accident results in death, it becomes more likely the employer does not have enough insurance coverage to properly settle the matter.

Sometimes, an employer or its agent has an especially personal dislike of a worker. That employer or their agent might act intentionally hurt the worker or worse by putting him or her in an especially dangerous situation in which a reasonable person would conclude harm would be a likely result. Getting angry and physically attacking a worker is an obvious example of an employer intentionally harming a worker.

Although it is possible to sue an employer for too little or no Workers’ Compensation insurance in violation of state law or for intentionally causing harm, the denial of a Workers’ Compensation claim does not automatically enable a worker or surviving family to sue an employer.

Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent the Families of Workers Who Have Been Killed on the Job

Workplace deaths are up across the nation, and Workers’ Compensation might not always cover the full costs for surviving spouses and families. The Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton can help hold employers accountable when Workers’ Compensation does not. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Located in Baltimore, we serve clients throughout Maryland.