The number of contractors and Hispanic workers who died on the job increased in 2013 even as the overall tally of worker deaths declined, according to preliminary data released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In all, 4,405 workers died from injuries sustained on the job last year — 223 fewer than the BLS reported in 2012. That equates to a rate of roughly 3.2 deaths for every 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, down slightly from 2012.
The new tranche of data came on the same day that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration released a final revised rule requiring employers to notify OSHA within eight hours if an employee dies and within 24 hours when an employee is hospitalized, suffers an amputation or loses an eye. Previously, employers were only required to report deaths and the hospitalization of three or more employees.
“Forty-four hundred five on-the-job deaths is 4,405 too many,” David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, said on a conference call with reporters. “We can and must do better.”
According to the BLS data, the majority of workers killed on the job in 2013 — 1,740 — died in transportation accidents; 717 died via contact with objects and equipment; 699 died from falls, slips or trips; and 330 died from exposure to harmful substances or environments. Violence — either homicides or suicides — accounted for 753 deaths, or roughly one out of every six.
The data were released on the 13th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, which killed 2,886 workers. The BLS will release the final 2013 fatality numbers in the spring; historically, the revised totals are higher than those reflected in the preliminary data.
While overall workplace fatalities decreased, two groups — contract workers and Hispanic workers — saw increases.
For workers classified as “Hispanic or Latino” by the BLS, the fatal injury rate in 2013 topped 3.8 per 100,000 full-time equivalent employees, 0.6 deaths higher than the national average. Seven hundred ninety-seven Hispanic workers died from job-related injuries, the highest total since 2008; 708 died in 2012.
Of the Hispanic workers who died in 2013, 527 were foreign-born, according to the BLS. Mexican-born workers accounted for 352 — or 42 percent — of the 845 fatal injuries among all foreign-born workers.
“It’s no surprise that the number remains high,” said Rebecca Smith, deputy director of the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy and research group. “In part, that’s a function of many Latino workers moving to more dangerous forms of employment, including construction. But also, there’s a huge overlay between the high incidents of Latinos who do [contract] work…It’s a mix of being in more dangerous work and contract work moving into more dangerous sectors. These statistics point to exactly the challenge for our country as workers move more and more into subcontracted jobs.”