Stay Safe: 15 Work-related Injury Statistics To Keep in Mind in 2023
Updated · May 20, 2023
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), around 2.3 million people around the world die each year due to work-related injury. That’s 6,000 people daily!
There are many causes behind work-related accidents or illnesses: unsafe conditions, job-related risks, human factors (lack of attention, substance abuse, etc.). Though, abhorrent working conditions are mostly to blame—in third-world countries, for instance, the very basic safety equipment and regulations are absent, which increases the chances of work-related injuries.
Ultimately, these three groups determine not only the rates of such accidents but also shape the work-related injury statistics we’ll dive into in this article.
So what are the biggest threats and what needs to be prioritized to keep us safe? Let’s start with:
Worrying Workplace Injury Statistics That Need Our Attention (Editor’s Choice):
- 340 million work-related accidents happen annually.
- More than 600,000 people die each year due to hazardous substances at the workplace.
- In 2020, more than 4,500 people died in the workplace in the US alone.
- The general workplace fatality rate in Africa is still extremely high—20 deaths per 100,000 employees.
- There are 50% less occupational fatalities in the US than 50 years ago.
- 3.5% of work-related deaths are suicides.
- During the 70s through to 90s, taxi drivers had a very high risk of homicide (66 per 100,000 work hours).
Occupational Injury Statistics
1. Around 340 million occupational accidents happen each year.
This is on top of the 160 million annual victims of work-related illnesses.
It has to be pointed out, though, that the 340 million workplace accidents that happen each year usually take place within smaller groups of people while the rest are relatively accident-free.
To end this one on a brighter note: among the 160 million poor souls suffering from occupational illnesses each year, about 60 million recover during this period. “Only” the same 100 million who continue to suffer from the same diseases are counted in the next year’s statistics, too.
2. Hazardous substances at the workplace cause more than 600,000 deaths each year.
Included in this list are, for instance, dangerous chemicals. Millions of people all around the world are working with such substances daily… and a significant number of them die from bad safety regulations, lack of care, or inherent risk.
Workplace safety statistics are often underreported, purposefully hidden, and misrepresented. In CIS (Commonwealth of Independent Countries), only around 6,000 work-related deaths get reported each year. ILO believes this is a gross underestimation and places the number around at least 11,000.
3. 4,764 fatal work accidents happened in the US in 2020.
Reading through recent workplace death statistics is a gruesome activity… but knowing what we are dealing with is the only chance to change it for the better. Fortunately, there’s already some improvement.
For example, the US has seen a decrease in fatal occupational accidents—the number is still high, sadly, but between 2019 and 2020, there’s a 10% drop. This means there are around 3.4 work-related injuries per 100,000 employees in the US.
Diving deeper, we can see that the most common workplace fatal injuries (37% of all deaths) are accidents in transportation. These involve things like mishandling construction vehicles, falling off of machines, etc. Those having a job in the transportation, construction, and material moving industries account for the largest proportion of all such deaths (47%).
Office-based jobs are not without risks, too, albeit much lower ones. 269 people died in 2020 due to work-related accidents. The same year saw 259 suicides at the workplace.
Women are less likely to die at the workplace, making up for 8.1% of total deaths, possibly because more dangerous positions are taken predominantly by men.
For aircraft pilots and flight engineers, the rate of deaths is 34 per 100,000 employees, which is a significant reduction compared to 2019 numbers… though this is perhaps due to relative idleness of the aircraft industry in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fishers’ and hunters’ death rate still remains high, with 131 fatal work injuries per 100,000 employees.
4. Older workers’ (over 65 years) death at the workplace rate is 10.3 per 100,000 employees.
Workers from 55 to 65 years also have a much higher fatality rate compared to that of younger ones—4.6 per 100,000.
Old age is related to numerous cognitive and psychomotor changes, some of which are a cause of accidents in the workplace—the speed of reflexes decreases, response time increases, vigilance reduces, overall physical strength and resilience also fall.
It seems that older American farmers are especially vulnerable, as they account for 80% of occupational fatalities in this whole sector. Thus, it comes as no surprise that states like Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa have the highest percentages of older workers among the total number of such fatalities.
Some of the most fatal accidents include handling of heavy vehicles and equipment, especially non roadway, and noncollision transportation accidents, such as tractor turnover.
First things first, what is OSHA? The acronym stands for Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
5. According to OSHA, 1 in 5 work fatalities occur in the construction industry.
The agency has a special list of the most commonly violated safety standards, which goes as follows:
- Fall protection
- Hazard communication standard
- Respiratory protection
- Scaffolding safety
- Ladders safety
- Control of dangerous energy sources
- Handling of industrial trucks
- Fall protection training
- Eye and face protection
- Machinery handling
The listing gives rather good insight into various safety and protection problems as well as what type of construction accidents we might be expecting.
6. Work-related deaths in the US fell by more than 50% between 1970 and 2019.
OSHA’s injury statistics sometimes bring us rather “glass-half-full” info as well.
38 people died each in 1970 due to occupational injury. In 2019, this number fell to 15.
Similarly, there were 10.9 job accidents per 100 workers in 1927, while in 2019, this ratio was 2.8 per 100.
It’s safe to say things have gotten a lot safer in the last 50 years.
7. Private industry reported 2.7 million nonfatal accidents and illnesses in 2020.
While the number of accidents is decreasing, the illness rate, especially one related to respiratory problems, has marked a significant increase in the last couple of years.
There were 12 reported cases of illness per 10,000 workers in 2019 and 55.9 per 10,000 workers in 2020.
Of course, we know that health professionals took the harshest blow of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sadly, maintenance and repair workers also marked a very high incidence of illnesses in 2020. The same is true for heavy and tractor-trailer drivers, as well as laborers—stock and material movers.
8. Occupational death rate in Africa rose up to 21 fatalities per 100,000.
Most workplace accidents and deaths in Africa happen in mining, transport, agriculture, and construction—there are around 50 work injuries per 1,000 workers.
9. The leading cause behind fatal injuries are transportation incidents, accounting for 37% of all work-related fatalities in the US.
So, what is the primary cause of workplace deaths and accidents? We’ll try to answer by basing our information on the most recent US stats.
They show that most fatalities are directly caused by transportation incidents. What causes them in the first place? Well, the reasons are various and include bad working conditions (such as equipment malfunction), human factors (e.g., age, substance abuse), random accidents, etc.
10. Slips, trips, falls, and overexertion are the reason for more than 75% of all occupational injuries.
What is the most common injury in the United States?
Well, the National Safety Council points out slips, trips, falls, and overexertion accounting for the larger percentage of work-related accidents.
Some work-related injury statistics from other countries paint a rather different picture. In the UK, the most common occupational accidents are being hit by a moving object, falling from height, and manual handling.
We should mention that these are the most immediate causes of occupational accidents. There are many indirect ones as well—for instance, substance use, which is possibly to blame for a significant proportion of work-related injuries, especially those in high-risk environments.
11. Burnout and overexertion explain 27% of all workplace accidents.
(Source: Annual Reviews)
Depression, anxiety, low concentration, sleep disorders—all associated with burnout and overexertion—are common psychological causes of occupational injuries. To be honest, though, we’re just starting to understand the psychological factors’ effects on occupational accidents. It seems as if they need to be examined in depth to get to the real causes of work fatalities and injuries.
Many combined factors increase the likelihood of work-related injuries. For instance, unsafe work conditions (lack of safety equipment and regulations), together with high levels of stress will result in even higher chances of occupational fatalities or accidents. Take for example truck drivers, forced to stay on the road for days and handle old machinery—they are much more likely to suffer work accidents.
It goes the other way around as well. When a person gets injured, they must rehabilitate and heal. This process often goes awry (due to various reasons including insurance, pressure from employers, etc.) and some untreated injuries end up leading to depression and other mental disorders.
12. Some physicians in the past estimated that up to 96% of work injuries are simulated.
Way back in 1906, Willis King, a railway surgeon, found out that 96% of all work-related injuries, examined by him, involved malingering (faking, or exaggerating the extent of, physical or psychological problems). Other professionals like Judson Fisher were more optimistic and claimed around 25%.
Since working conditions were much worse at the start of the 20th century, employees were more motivated to abstain from work, with faking injury being one of the best ways to do that. However, the initial estimations of work-related injury statistics were pretty inaccurate in that they also included self-inflicted wounds, which are perhaps similar to injury simulation, but are very much not the same thing when it comes to motive and intent.
13. The rates of malingering go up to 40% in certain industries.
The scientific journal NeuroToxicology has recently released an article revealing that up to 40% of alleged cognitive problems related to exposure to toxic substances in a workplace are actually faked.
The sample isn’t that representative, though, since this research included only 128 cases. Still, it gives us at least a partial insight into various trends that, indeed, malingering is still happening and in certain contexts and industries can be quite prevalent.
14. Suicides comprise 3.5% of all workplace fatalities.
Around 200 workplace suicides happen in the US each year, according to the US Bureau of Labor workplace injury statistics. Policemen, detectives, and soldiers have the higher relative risk of all occupations.
There are some other risk factors, such as being male, older, self-employed, and working in the farming industry. Still, managers and administrators account for the greatest number of workplace suicides.
15. Historically, taxi drivers had the highest risk of workplace death by homicide (66 deaths per 100,000 work hours).
These numbers pertain to stats from 1977-1991. They also show that large targets are people working in grocery stores (with 12 per 100,000) and in protective service (7 per 100,000) as well. The percentage of work homicide deaths among taxi drivers in the period between 1977 and 1991 is still the most frightening.
On a brighter note, a more recent study points to a declining homicide rate in this industry.
However, there’s a lot of violence targeted towards drivers working for taxi companies, Uber, Lyft, or others. 4,000 assaults occurred (all 10 fatal were drivers) in Lyft’s cars alone between 2017 and 2019. Most of us have heard about murderers posing as Uber drivers but these numbers paint an even more thorough picture of the threats and warnings.
Workplaces can be pretty dangerous sometimes and even lead to fatalities in some cases. As we saw, occupations differ in the inherent risks they carry with them and psychological factors also determine the likelihood of certain work-related injuries.
Fortunately, most of them are preventable. By paying more attention to safety regulations and in general, we can really reduce the number of occupational accidents. Stay safe!
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