Bureau of Labor Statistics: Net Workplace Deaths Are on the Rise

In 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics revised the way in which workplace accidents are classified to prevent the potential for duplicated reporting. Consequently, had there been the same number of workplace deaths in 2018 and 2019, the Bureau's statistics for 2019 should have indicated fewer deaths due to the elimination of duplications.

According to a Department of Labor press release in December 2020, the number of workplace deaths in the U.S. increased by 2 percent in 2019 to 5,333. While some of the increase could be attributable to a larger workforce and the lowest unemployment rates for more than ten years, the rate of fatal injuries per 100,000 Full Time Equivalents remained unchanged from 2018.

Assuming there were duplications in the data from previous years (because otherwise the revisions to the classifications would have been unnecessary), this implies the net rate of fatal injuries in 2019 increased as well as the overall number of workplace deaths. The reason the net rate of fatal injuries is important is because it will be the measure by which workplace safety in 2020 is measured.

Related Blog: What will the New Workplace Landscape look like?

The Issue with Measuring Workplace Safety in 2020

It is safe to assume there will be a significant reduction in the number of workplace injuries in 2020 as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic closing many businesses. However, it is also the case there will be fewer Full Time Equivalents to compare injuries against due to record unemployment rates during the first half of the year and ongoing high levels of unemployment by the year-end.

A further consideration is that millions of employees worked remotely from the relative safety of their homes in 2020 rather than in workplace environments. This will not only reduce the number of workplace accidents; but, if remote workers are counted in the Department of Labor's statistics, it will reduce the net rate of workplace injuries and give a false impression of workplace safety.

Although the Department of Labor's statistics won´t be prepared for several months yet, data released by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) shows there are still hundreds of workplace accidents every day and frequent workplace deaths. Tragically, many of these deaths are avoidable and attributable to human error and poor communication.

Universal - Business Safety Solutions Evaluation Kit

Addressing Human Error and Poor Communication

Human error is estimated to be attributable for 80 percent of accidents in the workplace; and, according to Pennsylvania´s Temple University, there are four main reasons for human error:

  • A lack of knowledge
  • A lack of skill (to apply the knowledge)
  • Human limitations (in physically demanding jobs)
  • Poor safety attitudes (undisciplined, overconfident, impatient, etc.)

While Temple University does not recommend solutions for reducing human error, there are many sources advocating communication as one of the best tools for addressing the issue. Safety experts agree employees should have an identified means of communication, that every employee should be encouraged to use the communication channel if it is not clear what they are supposed to do or how they are supposed to do it, and that protocols should exist to keep communications timely.

Furthermore, to be effective, the communication channel should be universal (i.e., one that every employee knows how to use) and always available. The logic behind these criteria is that, if an employee does not know how to use the communication channel, they may not attempt to use it; and, if it is not immediately available, the risk exists the employee may adopt a poor safety attitude (i.e., impatience) and make a judgement call without full knowledge of the correct procedures.

Related Blog: From PTO to RTO: How Employee Communication Has Changed in 2020

Solutions to Reduce the Trend of Increasing Workplace Deaths

A number of solutions can improve workplace communications, but few meet the criteria of being universal and always available. One solution that does meet the criteria is an SMS-based mass notification platform with two-way connectivity, unlimited database segmentation, and geo-polling capabilities. This is because almost everyone of working age has a mobile device capable of communicating via SMS and knows how to use it, and 94 percent carry their devices at all times.

SMS-based mass notification systems have the advantages of being effective in noisy environments and being able to connect with remote workers in areas with no Internet signal. They can be used by safety officers to connect with groups of employees simultaneously, or by individual employees to report safety concerns and ask for advice. They are also the best way to alert entire workforces to events responsible for the other 20 percent of workplace deaths – natural and manmade disasters.

Finally, in addition to the practical benefits of implementing an SMS-based mass notification platform, employees prefer receiving work-related communications via SMS according to our 2020 survey on employees´ perception of workplace safety and preparedness. You can find out more about this preference, and disconnects between the most common types of emergencies and the preparedness plans in place, by downloading our Workplace Safety and Preparedness Report.

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Andrea Lebron
Andrea Lebron

Andrea is Rave's Director of Digital Marketing, a master brainstormer and avid coffee drinker. Andrea joined Rave in August 2017, after 10 years of proposal and corporate marketing at an environmental engineering firm. You'll find her working with her amazing team in writing and producing blogs like this one, improving your journey to and through our website, and serving you up the best email content. When she's not in front of a keyboard, she's chasing after her three daughters or indulging in her husband's latest recipe. Andrea has a Bachelor's degree in Marketing/Management from Northeastern University and an MBA from Curry College.

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