According to a report just released by the AFL-CIO, 4,585 workers were killed in the United States during 2013 due to workplace injuries. An additional estimated 50,000 died from occupational diseases, resulting in a loss of nearly 150 workers each day from preventable workplace conditions.
“America’s workers shouldn’t have to choose between earning a livelihood and risking their life, yet every day too many end up on the wrong end of that choice,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Corporations are prospering while working people suffer because of corporate negligence and insufficient government oversight. We must go beyond mourning those we’ve lost, and take bold, decisive action to ensure that a day’s work brings opportunity, not the risk of death or injury.”
The report, entitled Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, marks the 24th year the AFL-CIO has produced its findings on safety and health protections for workers in the United States. The report shows the highest workplace fatality rates were found in North Dakota, Alaska, Wyoming, West Virginia, and New Mexico.
While workplace deaths and injuries were high in many private sector industries, such as oil and gas extraction, the injury rate for public sector workers was 58 percent higher than for private sector workers. In fact, 8 million state and local public employees lack any OSHA protections. OSHA oversight and enforcement remains weak. Federal OSHA has the resources and staff to inspect workplaces on average only once every 140 years. The average penalty for serious violations was only $1,895, and the median penalty for worker deaths was only $5,050.
Other report highlights include the startling rise of Latino worker deaths, as the Latino fatality rate was 18 percent greater than the overall rate, and the urgent need to update OSHA silica safety standards based on near-century old research.
Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect was released after numerous Workers Memorial Day vigils, rallies, and actions were held across the country, and can be found online here: aflcio.org/death-on-the-job.