January 12, 2023

Fatal Work Injuries Increased Nearly 9 Percent in 2021, Report Finds

The number of deaths caused by injuries in U.S. workplaces in 2021 represented an 8.9 percent increase from 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (PDF). In total, 5,190 fatalities were recorded in 2021, up from 4,764 fatal work injuries in 2020. The fatal work injury rate for 2021 was 3.6 fatalities per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, the highest annual rate since 2016. This translates to one worker death caused by a work-related injury every 101 minutes in 2021, BLS states.

In a statement dated Dec. 16, 2022, Doug Parker, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, said that this sharp increase in fatal work injuries “serves as call to action for OSHA, employers and other stakeholders to redouble our collective efforts to make our nation’s workplaces safer.”

As in 2020, transportation incidents were the most frequent type of fatal event in 2021, with 1,982 fatal transportation-related injuries representing 38.2 percent of all work-related fatalities. Likewise, workers in transportation and material-moving occupations were the occupational group with the highest number of fatalities, with 1,523 deaths recorded.

BLS found increases in workplace fatalities due to violence and other injuries caused by people or animals, from 705 deaths in 2020 to 761 in 2021—with the largest subcategory, intentional injuries by people, increasing by 10.8 percent. Women represented 14.5 percent of fatalities caused by intentional injuries by a person, the report found, although women comprised only 8.6 percent of all workplace fatalities.

2021 also saw 798 worker fatalities caused by exposure to harmful substances or environments, the highest number for the category since BLS began this series of reports in 2011. Injuries also rose within the category of slips, trips, and falls. However, the number of workplace suicides decreased between 2020 and 2021, from 259 to 236.

Parker also drew attention to the report’s finding that Black and Hispanic or Latino workers were disproportionately affected, with the 653 deaths among Black workers in 2021 representing an all-time high. BLS also found that the workplace fatality rates for Black and Hispanic or Latino workers were 4.0 and 4.5 fatalities per 100,000 FTE workers, respectively. Within both groups, transportation incidents were the leading cause of fatalities, with 267 transportation-related work fatalities occurring among Black or African American workers and 383 occurring among Latino or Hispanic workers. For Black workers, injuries due to violence and other injuries by people or animals was the second highest cause of fatalities due to work-related injuries, while for Hispanic or Latino workers, it was slips, trips, and falls.

For more detailed information on fatal workplace injuries by injury type and occupational group, read BLS’ full report (PDF).