On December 16th, 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its 2021 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), providing a count of workplace fatalities in the U.S. during the calendar year. In total, the BLS recorded 5,190 workplace fatalities in 2021. This is an 8.9-percent increase from 4,764 in 2020. The rise in fatal workplace injuries is a clear reminder to employers of their obligation to provide a place of employment free from recognized safety hazards. Subsequently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has interpreted this increase in workplace fatalities as a call to action to redouble their enforcement efforts. Last month, OSHA investigators fined a discount chain, and notorious violator, $2.7 million for willful OSHA violations.

Background of the CFOI

Prepared by the BLS and the Occupational Safety and Health Statistics (OSHS) program, the CFOI is a count of all workplace fatalities during a given calendar year. The CFOI cross-references data from a variety of state, federal, and independent data sources to identify, verify, and discover the cause of fatal workplace injuries. For fatalities to be included within the CFOI, the decedents must have been:

  • Employed at the time of the incident, and
  • Engaged in a legal work activity or present at the site of the incident as required by their job.

The CFOI excludes any fatality that occurred during an employee’s commute to or from work. Data reported include occupation, worker characteristics, any equipment involved, and the circumstances surrounding the incident.

Workplace Fatalities in 2021

Altogether, the 2021 CFOI reported 5,190 fatal work injuries, up 8.9 percent from 4,764 in 2020. The figure amounted to 3.6 workplace fatalities per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers. Notably, this represents the highest annual rate since 2016. In stark terms, this means that in 2021, a worker died every 101 minutes from a workplace injury. Other key findings from the CFOI include:

  • Workplace fatalities due to slips, trips, and falls increased 5.6 percent, from 805 fatalities in 2020 to 850 in 2021.
  • Exposure to harmful substances or work environments resulted in 798 worker fatalities, the highest since 2011.
  • Fatalities from intentional injuries by a person increased 10.3 percent to 718.
  • Transportation-related incidents remained the most frequent type of fatal workplace event, with a total of 1,982 fatal injuries or 38.2 percent of all workplace fatalities.
  • Black or African American workers experienced a disproportionate share of fatal workplace injuries in 2021, reaching an all-time high of 653. The fatality rate for this group was 4.0 per 100,000 FTE workers.

Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations had 475 fatalities in 2021, an increase of 20.9 percent from 2020. Meanwhile, occupations in construction and extraction experienced the second most occupational deaths in 2021, totaling 951.

Slips, Trips, and Falls Prevention Training Program

In 2021, slip, trip, and fall incidents accounted for the highest number of non-transportation-related workplace fatalities in the U.S. Slips, trips, and falls also account for the majority of preventable lost workday accidents each year. Common workplace hazards responsible for such incidents include improper housekeeping, wet floors, protruding objects, obstructed aisleways, and performing work on elevated surfaces. To help employers fully comply with OSHA’s Walking & Working Surfaces standards (29 CFR 1910, Subpart D), Personnel Concepts created the comprehensive Slips, Trips, and Falls Prevention Training Program for Employees. This online, interactive employee training module features branching topics based on an employee’s actual job responsibilities to educate workers on hazards related to floors, walkways, stairways, ladders, dockboards, stepbolts, fall protection, and more. In addition, employers have access to a compliance guide with overviews of each standard, self-inspection checklists, and accident investigation forms.