4,764 U.S. workers died while working in 2020 — 13 workers per day on average and the equivalent of one worker every 111 minutes, new data on fatal workplace injuries released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals.
This, however, is a lower fatality rate than in 2019 when 5,333 American workers died while on the job. In fact, it’s the lowest annual number recorded since 2013.
People working in the transportation industry and jobs involving material moving (such as truck drivers) sustained the highest number of workplace fatalities in 2020.
Transportation accidents resulted in the deaths of 1,778 workers, accounting for 37.3% of all workplace fatalities.
Similarly, the construction industry also experienced a high number of fatalities. “We need a more targeted approach to address significant disparities in who has access to a safe job and who is treated with dignity and respect at work,” says Liz Shuler, president of the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of U.S. unions. “Safe jobs are a fundamental right for every worker.”
When a workplace fatality is caused by employer negligence, brevered family members may be able to bring a wrongful death claim.
The exact definition of wrongful death varies in each state. In Texas, for example, it’s death caused by the “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default” of another.
A wrongful death lawyer can help families file a claim, which usually must be done within two years.
Minorities have higher worker fatality rates
The pandemic is the main reason for the recent decline in workplace fatalities, according to Shuler and the AFL-CIO, as it meant “fewer people were in direct contact with preventable hazards, production priorities shifted and businesses were forced to do more prevention planning. Because of the pandemic, people who continued to work in person were more likely to experience workplace injuries”.
Moreover, demographics who disproportionately continued to work in-person were hit hardest.
For example, while the total worker death rate was 3.4 fatalities per 100,000 workers in 2020, this increased to 4.5 deaths for Hispanic or Latino workers and 3.5 deaths for Black workers.
Schuler also highlights the importance of union organizing to improve workplace conditions and prevent injury and death. “We are working with the Biden administration to hold employers accountable and to rebuild our workplace safety agencies to strengthen job safety protections and enforcement,” Schuler says. “Working people are standing united to ensure workplace hazards are addressed and that workers can speak up without retaliation.”