There were 5,190 fatal work injuries in the U.S. in 2021, an 8.9% increase from 4,764 in 2020, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The fatal work injury rate for 2021 was 3.6 fatalities per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers up from 3.4 per 100,000 FTE in 2020. This is also up from the 2019 pre-pandemic rate of 3.5. This marks the highest fatal occupational injury rate since 2016, with one worker dying every 101 minutes from a work-related injury in 2021.

Transportation Remains #1

Transportation incidents remained the most frequent type of fatal event in 2021 with 1,982 fatal injuries, an increase of 11.5% from 2020. This category accounted for 38.2% of all work-related fatalities for 2021.

The transportation and material moving occupations experienced a high of 1,523 fatal work injuries in 2021. This represents the occupational group with the highest number of fatalities, with an increase of 18.8% from 2020.

However, despite an increase from 2020 to 2021, transportation incidents are still down 6.6% from 2019 when there were 2,122 fatalities.

Violence, Harmful Substances, and Falls Increased

Fatalities from violence and other injuries by people or animals increased from 705 fatalities in 2020 to 761 fatalities in 2021. Intentional injuries by a person, the largest subcategory, increased 10.3% to 718 in 2021.

Exposure to harmful substances or environments reached the highest figure since this series began in 2011 with 798 worker fatalities in 2021. This category experienced the largest increase in fatalities in 2021, with an 18.8% increase over 2020. Unintentional overdoses from non-medical use of drugs or alcohol accounted for 58.1% of these fatalities, up from 57.7% in 2020.

Work-related fatalities from slips, trips and fall increased 5.6% in 2021, from 805 fatalities in 2020 to 850 in 2021. Slips, trips and falls in construction and extraction occupations accounted for 370 of these fatalities, which increased 7.2% over 2020. Despite the increase, these numbers are still down 9.3% when compared to 2019 when construction and extraction workers experienced 408 fatalities from slips, trips and falls.

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About the Author

Jon Knight

Jon Knight leads the NASP Team’s media creation department. He has been involved with workplace safety training since 2017 with a focus on course creation. He also provides video production and voiceovers for NASP content.
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