• Utilities Worker Safety

Is Workplace Safety Improving in Your Industry?

September 1, 2016 By
In April, the AFL-CIO released the 2016 edition of the Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect report on the state of safety and health protections for U.S. workers. This is the 25th year the AFL-CIO has produced the report.

The 226-page report includes a wealth of information and statistics, including the evolution of workplace fatality rates (pages 66-67) and workplace injury and illness rates (page 82) by industry sector. For this post, we calculated the changes over time in workplace fatality rates and workplace injury and illness rates for individual industries, to identify the ones that improved the most.

A few caveats before we continue. The rates mentioned above are lagging indicators. Many safety professionals think that leading indicators are better to evaluate safety performance. Therefore, whether safety is actually improving based on numbers of fatalities, injuries and illnesses is a matter of interpretation, especially since injuries and illnesses can be under-reported. When we talk about “improvement” in this post, we are referring strictly to the rates of workers getting killed or hurt on the job. Also, some industries start with lower rates than others, so they may not have experienced a big improvement simply because their rates were already low to begin with.

Workplace Fatality Rates

Workplace fatality rates represent the number of deaths per 100,000 workers. The AFL-CIO report provides rates by industry from 2008 to 2014. The rates are from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. We did not include the “Other Services, Except Public Administration” category.

Here are the top three industries that improved the most, as well as rates for 2008 and 2014:

1) Utilities: -56% (workplace fatality rate decreased from 3.9 in 2008 to 1.7 in 2014)
2) Mining, Quarrying, Oil/Gas Extraction: -22% (down from 18.1 to 14.2)
3) Government: -21% (down from 2.4 to 1.9)

Here are the top three industries that improved the least (fatality rates actually increased for these sectors). Some of these industries already had relatively low rates in 2008, so they had less room for improvement:

1) Wholesale Trade: +16% (workplace fatality rate increased from 4.4 in 2008 to 5.1 in 2014)
2) Financial Activities: +9% (up from 1.1 to 1.2)
3) Construction: +1% (up from 9.7 to 9.8)

Workplace Injury and Illness Rates

Workplace injury and illness rates represent total recordable cases per 100 workers. The AFL-CIO report provides rates by industry from 2004 to 2014. The rates are from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. We did not include the “Other Services, Except Public Administration” category.

Here are the top three industries that improved the most, as well as rates for 2004 and 2014:

1) Utilities: -54% (workplace injury and illness rate decreased from 5.2 in 2004 to 2.4 in 2014)
2) Mining, Quarrying, Oil/Gas Extraction: -47% (down from 3.8 to 2.0)
3) Construction: -44% (down from 6.4 to 3.6)

Here are the top three industries that improved the least:

1) Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, Hunting: -14% (workplace injury and illness rate decreased from 6.4 in 2004 to 5.5 in 2014)
2) Government (as of 2008): -21% (down from 6.3 to 5.0)
3) Leisure and Hospitality: -23% (down from 4.7 to 3.6)

We hope you found the results interesting and insightful. Check out the full AFL-CIO report for more details.

If you want to learn more about industry-specific challenges and best practices, SPF Americas 2016 will include a session on industry roundtables with a dozen different sectors represented. SPF Americas 2016 will take place on October 4-5 in Chicago, and will bring together more than 500 EHS, Sustainability, Risk and IT professionals from the world’s largest corporations. Register today and don’t miss out on 50+ sessions and countless opportunities to network with your peers.

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