Workplace fatalities increased by 7 percent in 2016

Workers in Minnesota, especially those in the construction, transportation, and food industries, should know that in 2016, the number of workplace fatalities rose by 7 percent around the country to a level not seen since 2008. The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its Census of 2016 Fatal Occupational Injuries report, which states that there were a total of 5,190 fatal injuries in the U.S. that year.

Transportation incidents accounted for about two out of every five of those fatal injuries. Following that, the most prominent causes were slips, trips, and falls. Fall-related deaths rose by 25 percent among roofers, carpenters, tree trimmers, and commercial truck drivers alone. With the current opioid crisis going on, overdoses have increased dramatically in the past several years as well.

Asian, non-Hispanic workers saw the highest increase in fatal injuries of any other race, from 114 in 2015 to 160 in 2016. More than 580 black, non-Hispanic workers died in 2016, which constituted a 19 percent increase from 2015. 879 Hispanic workers died, though this was actually 3 percent less than in 2015. One fifth of all fatal injuries were incurred by foreign-born workers. Employees in service industries, the hospitality sector, and local and state government positions also saw more work-related deaths. OSHA intends to address these issues with stricter enforcement, more extensive training and education, compliance assistance, and outreach.

Workers' compensation can also provide death benefits to the surviving family members of a loved one who has been fatally injured in a workplace accident. When the fatality was caused by the negligence of a non-employer third party, such as the manufacturer of a defective piece of machinery, it might also be possible to file a separate wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible entity.

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