How Many Workers Die Each Day in the United States?

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More than a dozen workers across the United States die while on the job every day. The U.S. Department of Labor says 5,333 workers died while at work in 2019. That averages out to about 15 deaths per day and more than 100 every week. 

The average number of deaths at U.S. workplaces climbed slightly from 2016 through 2019. There were 5,190 deaths reported in 2016 versus the 5,333 in 2019. 

The COVID-19 pandemic curtailed the gradual rise with 4,764 occupational deaths reported in 2020. The transition to workers staying at home or drawing unemployment during the pandemic had a significant impact on the number of fatalities.

Transportation Incidents Cause the Most Deaths

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says transportation-related incidents account for the largest number of worker deaths by a wide margin. 

Transportation incidents accounted for 2,122 of the 5,333 worker deaths in 2019. That is significantly more than the 880 deaths attributed to falls, slips, or trips that caused worker fatalities. 

Other leading causes of worker deaths in 2019 were:

  • Violence caused by people or animals: 841 deaths
  • Contact with equipment or objects: 732 deaths
  • Exposure to harmful substances or work environments: 642 deaths
  • Fires and explosions: 99 deaths

Transportation incidents also cause the most worker deaths in Maryland and claimed 25 lives in 2018, according to the state’s Division of Labor and Industry. Falls, slips, and trips caused 17 worker fatalities in the state. 

The combined death total of 42 caused transportation incidents and falls, slips, and trips to account for 54 percent of worker deaths in Maryland. 

Violence caused by people or animals accounted for the third-most deaths in Maryland with 14 deaths among workers. Exposure to harmful substances and environments accounted for 11 deaths in the state, which includes eight deaths caused by overdoses from drug or alcohol abuse. 

The nature of the worker deaths nationally and in Maryland suggests that human error plays a large role in making these deaths occur. Whether it is the worker who makes an error or someone else, the results could be deadly.

Deadliest Occupations in 2018

Some occupations are exceptionally dangerous for workers and consistently account for the highest fatal injury rates among workers. The nature of the work and the high number of workers employed by the industry make the job especially deadly. 

The BLS says logging is the most dangerous job with a fatal injury rate of 111 deaths per 100,000 workers. Loggers work with dangerous equipment; large trees; and in conditions that could cause them to slip, fall, or trip. Contact with logging machines causes the most deaths among workers. 

The next-deadliest occupation is aircraft pilot or flight engineer, which has a fatal injury rate of 53 deaths per 100,000 workers. Pilots must inspect aircraft conditions, balance the loads, and calculate fuel needs. Engineers monitor aircraft systems. Most pilots and engineers who die on the job do so while flying privately owned aircraft instead of commercial planes and helicopters. 

Other deadly occupations and their fatal injury rates per 100,000 workers include:

  • Derrick operators for oil, gas, and mining:  46
  • Roofers: 41
  • Garbage collectors:  34
  • Ironworkers: 29
  • Delivery drivers: 27

Many occupations consistently prove to be deadly at significantly higher rates than others. That makes it important for job providers to ensure workers are properly trained, aware of potential dangers, and equipped to work as safely as possible. 

OSHA Citations for Workplace Violations

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says fall protection ranks as its most cited workplace violation. The construction industry is especially prone to violating fall protections. Rounding out the top five most-cited violations and their respective industries are:

  • Hazard communication standard, general industry
  • Respiratory protection, general industry
  • Scaffolding requirements, construction
  • Ladders, construction

Three of the five most-cited workplace violations are attributed to the construction industry. As you might anticipate, the construction industry is the third most dangerous in the United States. 

The U.S. Department of Labor says the construction industry accounts for about 20 percent of all worker deaths. That is the highest rate among private employers. 

General industry is another commonly cited industry category and broadly encompasses many more defined industries. The category could include the automotive industry, transportation, energy, and many others. 

Worker Death Rates Are Trending Lower

OSHA says worker deaths have declined significantly over the years. The federal agency credits working with state-level partners to improve workplace safety and conditions over the past 50 years. 

In 1970, the nation posted an average daily worker death rate of 38. That number declined to just 15 in 2019. 

Safety training and communication greatly assist in lowering workplace injuries and fatalities. So do improvements in safety equipment and stepping up efforts to create safe working conditions.

Worker injuries and illnesses also have declined greatly over the past five decades. OSHA says there was an average of nearly 11 such incidents per 100 workers in 1972. It declined to just 2.8 per 100 workers in 2019. 

OSHA says employers can continue to keep the work fatalities and injuries trends going down by providing safe and well-maintained equipment, training workers in their safe use, and using sound engineering practices to complete any job,  especially in the construction industry. 

Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Worker Deaths

When a worker dies while on the job, any dependents would be entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits. Generally, the benefit would be equal to two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly wages until $45,000 is paid. Therefore, $45,000 is the maximum benefit amount. 

The weekly benefit is the same that an injured worker would receive while drawing Workers’ Compensation pay from a workplace injury. However, determining the amount of the actual benefit has many factors that might reduce it for a surviving spouse or dependent. 

Spouses and dependents might not qualify for full benefits if a spouse or parent died while working. If a spouse has a source of income, that spouse might be a partial dependent. The same goes for any surviving dependents. 

The Workers’ Compensation benefit paid could be a full benefit or a partial one. If the spouse and dependents were only partially dependent on the deceased worker, the Workers’ Compensation benefit could be reduced.

If a surviving spouse obtains a benefit but eventually remarries, the benefit would cease when the marriage is complete. Any issues with Workers’ Compensation claims for survivors might need the help of an experienced lawyer. 

How to Challenge Claims Denials

A Workers’ Compensation denial related to the death of a worker might wind up in a state court. When an injured worker is denied Workers’ Compensation benefits, that worker could file a complaint with the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission. The commission would investigate the matter, conduct a hearing, and render a decision. 

The worker would have to file a complaint with the state commission because Workers’ Compensation does not allow the worker to sue when benefits are provided. But when that worker dies while working, there is no agreement with that worker’s surviving spouse or dependents.

If the surviving spouse or dependents are denied a survivor benefit, the matter could get appealed to the Workers’ Compensation Commission. A lawyer would be a strong asset in helping to present the best claim for benefits. 

If the commission denies the claim, the lawyer could help to file legal claims for damages against the employer. Even if benefits are provided, the spouse or dependents could file for additional damages against the employer if negligence led to the work fatality. 

Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Help Injured Workers and Survivors Obtain Benefits

If you suffered a workplace injury or are the spouse of a fatally injured worker, reach out to the experienced Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will investigate the cause of the accident and press claims for benefits. We will advocate for you to secure justice for you and your family. 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.