(Washington, D.C.) In 2015, 150 workers died from preventable work-related injuries and illnesses every day in the United States, on average, according to a report released today by the AFL-CIO. 4,836 workers died due to workplace injuries, and another 50,000-60,000 died from occupational diseases. The number of immigrant workers killed on the job reached a nearly 10-year high.
“Corporate negligence and weak safety laws have resulted in tragedy for an astonishing and unacceptable number of working families,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Instead of working for stronger protections, too many Republican politicians in Washington, including the Trump administration, are trying to roll back commonsense regulations that enable workers to return home safely to their families. These are more than numbers; they are our brothers and sisters, and a reminder of the need to continue our fight for every worker to be safe on the job every day.”
The report, titled Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, marks the 26th year the AFL-CIO has reported on the state of safety and health protections for workers in the United States. The report shows the highest workplace fatality rates are in North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Nebraska and West Virginia.
According to the report, Latino workers have an 18% higher fatality rate than the national average. Deaths among Latino workers increased to 903, compared with 804 in 2014. Overall, 943 immigrant workers were killed on the job in 2015—the highest number since 2007.
The report also finds that construction, transportation and agriculture remain among the most dangerous sectors. 937 construction workers were killed in 2015—the highest in any sector. Older workers also are at high risk, with those 65 or older 2.5 times more likely to die on the job. Workplace violence continues to be a growing problem for workers, resulting in 703 deaths.
The report also highlights the fact that OSHA is underfunded and understaffed to handle the 8 million workplaces across the country.
- There are only 1,838 inspectors (815 federal and 1,023 state) to inspect the 8 million workplaces under the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s jurisdiction.
- Federal OSHA has enough inspectors to inspect workplaces once every 159 years.
- State OSHA plans have enough inspectors to inspect workplaces once every 99 years.
- There is one inspector for every 76,402 workers.
- The current OSHA budget amounts to $3.65 to protect the safety and health of each worker in America.
The federal penalty average for the death of a worker on the job is $6,500 dollars. The state penalties are even worse. The state penalty average for the death of a worker on the job is only $2,500. Serious OSHA violations carry an average penalty of $2,402 for federal and $1,747 from the state.
Instead of working to strengthen worker protections the Trump administration is rolling back regulations and slashing funding to the Department of Labor.
- Executive Order 13771, issued Jan. 24, 2017, requires that for every new regulatory protection issued, two existing safeguards must be repealed.
- Repeal of OSHA’s rule clarifying an employer’s obligation to keep accurate injury and illness records.
- Repeal of a rule that would have required companies to disclose safety and health and labor violations in order to qualify for federal contracts.
- Delay in the effective date of OSHA’s new beryllium standard and delay in the enforcement of OSHA’s silica standard in the construction industry. The delay in the silica rule will allow continued high exposures that will lead to 160 worker deaths.
- Budget proposals to slash the Department of Labor’s budget by 21%, eliminate worker safety and health training programs, eliminate the Chemical Safety Board and cut the job safety research budget by $100 million.
After decades of work, OSHA has helped to save the lives of countless workers and yet there is so much more we can do. We need the President to take strong and swift actions to strengthen OSHA protections, increase the penalties, hire additional inspectors, and address the growing problems facing workers today.