Skip to main content
Skip global navigation and go to main content

Census of fatal workplace injuries shows continued upward trend

BLS reports increase in annual workplace deaths for the third year in a row

Posted December 20, 2017

A total of 5,190 people lost their lives at work in 2016, according to the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), which was released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on December 19. That number represents a seven-percent increase in fatal work injuries over 2015. This is the third consecutive increase in annual workplace fatalities and the first time there were more than 5,000 deaths recorded by the CFOI since 2008.

The fatal injury rate increased to 3.6 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers from 3.4 in 2015, the highest rate since 2010.

Workplace deaths by type of incident

The BLS reports that work injuries involving transportation incidents remained the most common fatal event in 2016, accounting for 40 percent of work-related deaths. Violence and other injuries by people or animals increased 23 percent to become the second-most common fatal event in 2016. In addition, deaths from exposure to harmful substances or environments rose 22 percent, and deaths from fires and explosions declined 27 percent.

The BLS breaks down the data further, showing:

  • Fatal work injuries involving violence and other injuries by persons or animals increased by 163 cases to 866 in 2016. Workplace homicides increased by 83 cases to 500 in 2016, and workplace suicides increased by 62 to 291. This is the highest homicide figure since 2010 and the most suicides since CFOI began reporting data in 1992.
  • Fatal work injuries from falls, slips, or trips continued a general upward trend that began in 2011, increasing 6 percent to 849 in 2016 and 25 percent overall since 2011. Falls increased more than 25 percent in 2016 for roofers, carpenters, tree trimmers and pruners, and heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers.
  • Overdoses from the non-medical use of drugs or alcohol while on the job increased from 165 in 2015 to 217 in 2016, a 32-percent increase. Overdose fatalities have increased by at least 25 percent annually since 2012.

The Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries

The CFOI, part of the BLS Occupational Safety and Health Statistics program, compiles a count of all work-related deaths that occur in the U.S. each calendar year. The CFOI program uses state, federal, and independent data to identify, verify, and describe fatal work injuries. For the 2016 data, the BLS says it reviewed over 23,300 unique source documents.

Safety Management Today NewsletterJ. J. Keller's Safety Management Today Newsletter is packed with money-saving tips and practical advice that can result in improved on-the-job performance.


J. J. Keller's FREE Workplace SafetyClicks™ email newsletter brings quick-read workplace safety and compliance news right to your email box.

Sign up to receive Workplace SafetyClicks™.