Workplace Injuries on the Rise but Workplace Safety is Not
In 2015, 4,836 workers were killed on the job in the United States. That means, on average, 13 workers die because of injuries on the job every day in the United States. This is more than the numbers were in 2013 and 2014. Further, an estimated 50,000 died from occupational diseases. This means that, in effect, 150 workers die each and every day from hazardous working conditions.
Older workers are at a greater risk. Thirty-five percent of all fatalities occurred in workers age 55 or older, and workers 65 or older have three times the risk of dying on the job as younger workers.
Temporary workers are at an even higher risk of injury.
Temporary workers often receive insufficient training or are inexperienced with how to protect themselves on the job site, but don’t want to complain about the lack of training for fear of losing their job. Temporary workers tend to be younger, less educated, and disproportionately consist of minority workers, many of whom might be immigrant workers, according to researchers from the University of Massachusetts. At the same time, temporary workers are employed in some of the country’s most hazardous jobs, including waste recycling, fish processing, and construction.
A recent Center for Public Integrity feature on the plight of temporary workers reported, “there’s little incentive for host employers to rigorously train and supervise temp workers because staffing agencies carry their [workers’] comp insurance. If an agency has a high number of injuries within its workforce, it — not the host employer — is penalized with higher premiums.”
As shocking as these numbers are, the AFL-CIO says that under-reporting of worksite injuries is very common. While 3.8 million on-the-job injuries were reported, it is believed that the true number of work-related injuries was between 7.6 million and 11.4 million.
Employers have various incentives to under-report, including avoiding the risk of increased inspections from OSHA, higher insurance premiums, and lower chances of getting plum government contracts.
The economic impact of these injuries is enormous – estimated at $250 billion to $370 billion every year. And even though workers may receive compensation benefits, it generally is not enough to actually make up for what is lost. After receiving workers’ compensation benefits, injured workers’ incomes are, on average, nearly $31,000 lower over 10 years than if they had not suffered an injury.