Fatal workplace accidents can and do happen. While employers may aim to create a safe environment for their employees, hazardous moments can happen anywhere and create deadly scenarios. Across the U.S., the number of fatal workplace injuries increased by 7 percent between 2015 and 2016, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
With 5,190 workplace fatalities in 2016, death isn’t exclusive to some occupations. Occupational violence injuries increased by 23 percent in 2016, making them the second overall cause of workplace fatalities in the U.S.
To learn more about fatal workplace injuries, we analyzed 2016 State Occupational Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. We wanted to know which states had the most accidents, which employees were most in danger, and which U.S. jobs were considered the deadliest. Read on to see what we uncovered.
Workplace Casualties Across the U.S.
With more than 118 fatal injuries for every 1 million working people, Wyoming was the most lethal state in 2016. In fact, the number of people who died as a result of work accidents in Wyoming was more than seven times higher than the least dangerous state, Connecticut. An increase from 2015, 38 percent of those deaths represented workers over the age of 55.
Other states with the greatest number of fatal workplace injuries included Alaska ( 98 deaths per 1 million working people), Montana (75.4), and North Dakota (68.7). Rhode Island (17.2), California (20.5), and Washington (22.3) followed behind Connecticut as the states with the least number of fatal occupational hazards.
Most Dangerous States
According to the data, women experienced fewer workplace deaths than men. In 2015, for instance, 93 percent of all fatalities on the job involved male employees, and between 2011 and 2015, men accounted for nearly 93 percent of every workplace death in America.
Wyoming (210.9 deaths per 1 million working people), Alaska (165.8), and Montana (140.1) represented the highest rates of fatalities for men. Nebraska (17.1), Arkansas (11.3), and Wisconsin (11.2), however, experienced more female employee deaths.
Workplace fatalities for men are traditionally linked to more dangerous professions. In fact, jobs like logging, roofing, fishing, and piloting tend to be dominated by male employees. In contrast, the leading cause of female workplace fatalities has historically been linked to workplace shootings and homicides. In 2014, nearly 1 in 5 workplace fatalities involving women occurred by homicide, compared to just 8 percent for men.
Deadly Workplace Trends
Violence inflicted by others (or animals) doesn’t exclusively affect women, though. In 2016, violent encounters were the leading cause of workplace fatalities for Asian and Asian-American employees, accounting for nearly 2 in 3 deaths. Violence inflicted by people or animals was the second leading cause of fatalities among black and African-American employees as well.
Between 2008 and 2015, farm animals like cattle and horses were responsible for the highest number of animal-related deaths across the country, followed by hornets, wasps, bees, and dogs. In the workplace, animal-related injuries resulted in 222 deaths between 2011 and 2014 and were more likely to affect workers aged 55 or older.
Kentucky and other Southern states, including Louisiana, South Carolina, and Tennessee, were the most dangerous states for Hispanic employees in 2016, while Wyoming, Hawaii, and Alaska had the highest number of Caucasian casualties per 1 million working people.
Not all workplace conditions are created equal, and some industries are far more deadly than others. Across the country, the leading cause of workplace fatalities in each state was led by one of five occupations: management, business, science, and arts; military; natural resources, construction, and maintenance; production, transportation, and material moving; and service (such as healthcare support, protective services, food preparation and serving).
Overwhelmingly, natural resources and construction jobs, as well as production and transportation jobs, resulted in the most workplace deaths in many states. Research showed falls accounted for roughly half of all construction-related fatalities between 1982 and 2015. In many cases, employees who died on the job lacked access to proper fall protection. Twenty percent of those deaths also occurred during the victims’ first two months on the job.
According to our analysis, states like Wyoming, South Dakota, and Montana had the highest rate of fatalities related to construction or maintenance.
In states like North Dakota, Alabama, and Mississippi, the leading occupations involved in workplace fatalities were production, transportation, and material moving. In 2016, 2 in 5 workplace deaths involved moving things or vehicles, resulting in over 2,000 fatalities – more than any other category in consideration.
Hazardous for Your Health
If transportation and production jobs are the most dangerous occupations in the country, Alaska is certainly the most deadly state to be employed by these industries. With more than 67 deaths per 1 million working people, no state had more transportation incidents than Alaska in 2016.With more than twice as many fatalities as any other state, wet roads in Alaska represent some of the most dangerous driving conditions anywhere in America.
Wyoming, which led the country for the highest rate of workplace fatalities, was dominated by violence and other injuries by people or animals, totaling nearly 21 deaths per 1 million working people in 2016. Across the U.S., the number of people dying at work as a result of violence increased by 23 percent and accounted for 866 deaths in 2016.
The total number of deaths for falls and slips, as well as for fires and explosions, were the highest in South Dakota, while West Virginia led the way for the highest number of fatalities due to exposure to harmful substances or environments.
Recognizing the Danger
With more than a quarter-million construction sites across the country at any given time, nearly 6.5 million people are employed in construction. As the number of construction-related jobs increases, so do the dangers of working on these sites. In 2015, 937 construction workers died on the job, the highest rate of fatalities since 2008.
According to our research, construction was responsible for the highest percentage of workplace deaths attributed to slips and falls, exposure to harmful substances, contact with objects and equipment, and fire and explosions in 2016. Experts say the likelihood of firms hiring young or inexperienced employees to work at these potentially dangerous sites also grows.
People working in transportation and material moving were the more likely to die in an accident related to moving objects (including vehicles), while nearly 1 in 4 workplace fatalities were linked to sales or related occupations.
Considered among the most deadly and dangerous jobs in the U.S., truck transportation accounted for 570 workplace fatalities in 2016. In recent years, the number of truck driver fatalities has increased, rising to over 11 percent between 2011 and 2015.
Unlike consumer vehicles, the trucks used in the transportation of goods aren’t required to have airbags, creating a serious safety concern for new drivers and veterans alike. While advancements in technology and increases in educational programs and requirements for drivers may help reduce the risk, tired and distracted driving also contributes to the rising number of deaths in this field.
While one might not expect management or administrative jobs to be dangerous, 440 people were killed at jobs like these in 2016. The number of deaths attributed to workplace homicides continues to rise as well, largely linked to gun violence and shootings. In 2015, 354 people died as a result of gun violence at work, a 15 percent increase over 2014.
Staying Safe at Work
Getting up in the morning and going to work shouldn’t be a dangerous experience, but thousands of simple accidents turn into fatal tragedies in jobs and industries across the country. While dangerous occupations like truck driving and construction often have the highest number of these workplace fatalities, the prevalence of gun violence and homicides in working environments is also rising.
If you or someone you love has been injured at work, you might be wondering where to turn to next. At InjuryClaimCoach.com, our mission is to help you learn your rights as an accident victim and how to navigate negotiating with insurance companies.
We collected data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the 2016 State Occupational Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities. We calculated per capita numbers, 1 million working people, individually for gender (men and women) and race (Asian or Asian-American, black or African-American, Caucasian, and Hispanic.) Data with a sample size of less than 20 working people were excluded from analysis.
Fair Use Statement
Safety in the workplace should always be one of our most pressing concerns. Feel free to share the results our study with your readers for any noncommercial use. We only ask that you ensure a link back to this page so that your readers can see the results of our research in their entirety and our contributors get credit for their work too.