Last year, there were only 1,719 OSHA inspectors nationwide, 755 on the federal level and 965 on the state level. That’s just one inspector for every 81,427 workers. Federal OSHA’s budget amounts to $4.37 to protect each worker, with no federal standards for protections against workplace violence and COVID-19.
Earlier this year, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler highlighted how this year’s Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect report shows that worker injuries and deaths are far too common. Shuler believes OSHA, MSHA, Congress and employers everywhere need to be held accountable for stronger safety measures.
In the 51 years since the Occupational Safety and Health Act went into effect, workplace safety and health conditions have improved. However, too many workers remain at serious risk of injury, illness or death as chemical plant explosions, major fires, construction collapses, infectious disease outbreaks, workplace assaults and other preventable workplace tragedies continue to occur. Workplace hazards kill and disable approximately 125,000 workers each year – 4,764 from traumatic injuries – and an estimated 120,000 from occupational diseases. According to Death on the Job, “(I)njury and illness numbers continue to be severe undercounts of the real problem.”
The 31st annual Death on the Job report includes a national and state-by-state profile of worker safety and health. According to the report, the states with the highest fatality rates in 2020 were, in order: Wyoming, Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota and West Virginia. The industries with the highest fatality rates in 2020 were: agriculture, forestry and fishing and hunting; transportation and warehousing; mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction; construction; and wholesale trade. This year’s report also reveals that in 2020:
- 340 working people died every day because of hazardous working conditions.
- More than 4,764 workers were killed on the job from injuries alone.
- An estimated 120,000 workers died from occupational diseases.
- The job fatality rate was 3.4 per 100,000 workers.
- Latino and Black workers remain at greater risk of dying on the job than all workers.
- Employers reported nearly 3.2 million work-related injuries and illnesses.
- Musculoskeletal disorders continue to make up the largest portion (21%) of work-related injuries and illnesses.
- Underreporting is widespread—the true toll of work-related injuries and illnesses is 5.4 million to 8.1 million each year.
“That’s tens of thousands of families losing a parent, a child, a sibling, every single year,” said Shuler. “Latino and Black workers specifically remain at greater risk of dying on the job than all workers. That is, frankly, unacceptable.”
Despite these disturbing findings, Shuler noted that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) still does not have the resources needed to hold employers accountable and enact lasting change. Workers need more job safety and health protections, not less, according to the AFL-CIO.
AFL-CIO Safety and Health Director Rebecca Reindel emphasized how the AFL-CIO is calling on both OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to enact stronger job safety and health protections, for Congress to increase resources for job safety agencies and for workers to have a real voice on safety and health in their workplaces without the fear of retaliation or intimidation.
“Having regulations is important,” said MJ Burke, first executive vice president of AFGE National VA Council. “COVID-19 and the pandemic disproportionately impacts minorities and Latinos, as well as women who are about to give birth. It’s so important as we hear the voices of workers across America.”