The federation’s 2023 Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect report shows alarming working conditions across the country.
Today the AFL-CIO, America’s largest labor federation, released its 32nd annual report, Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, a national and state-by-state profile of worker safety and health. Key findings from the report point to a troubling rise in worker deaths, particularly among Black and Latino workers, and illustrate the urgency of funding and support needed for critical job safety oversight and enforcement.
The report shows the fatality rate for Black workers grew from 3.5 to 4.0 per 100,000 workers and more than 650 died on the job, the highest number in nearly two decades. Latino workers have the greatest risk of dying on the job, with a fatality rate at 4.5 per 100,000 workers that has grown by 13% over the past decade. There was also a slight uptick in deaths for Latino workers in 2021, and the overwhelming majority who died were immigrants.
“Every American should be alarmed and outraged by the tragic data unearthed in this report,” said AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler. “It is unconscionable that in the wealthiest nation in the world, Black and Latino workers are facing the highest on-the-job fatality rates in nearly two decades. This report is more than a wake-up call, it is a call to action. No one should have to risk their lives for their livelihoods. There is no corporate cost-benefit analysis that should put human life and worker safety on the wrong side of the ledger.
“This report isn’t just about data points, it is about people. Every worker who died on the job represents another empty seat at a family’s kitchen table. Every worker accounted for in this report is a person who just went to work one day and never came home. It is our solemn responsibility to these workers to do everything in our power to honor their memories by making America’s workplaces safer—because that’s what unions do. It is our history, it is our responsibility and it is our cause to always put workers and their safety first.”
This year’s report also reveals that in 2021:
- 343 workers died each day from hazardous working conditions.
- 5,190 workers were killed on the job in the United States.
- An estimated 120,000 workers died from occupational diseases.
- The job fatality rate increased to 3.6 per 100,000 workers.
- Employers reported nearly 3.2 million work-related injuries and illnesses.
- The true impact of COVID-19 infections due to workplace exposures is unknown. Limited data show that more than 1.5 million nursing home workers have been infected with COVID-19 and more than 3,000 have died.
- Fewer data are now reported on job injuries and illnesses related to workplace violence, musculoskeletal disorders and heat illness, which continue to be major problems.
- Underreporting is widespread—the true toll of work-related injuries and illnesses is 5.4 million to 8.1 million each year in private industry.
The report, which includes data on the worker fatality rate in all 50 states as well as the most affected industries, also lays out recommendations for strengthening federal agencies tasked with enforcing worker safety. In 2021, there were 1,871 inspectors—900 at the federal level and 971 at the state—for the more than 10.8 million workplaces under the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s jurisdiction. That equates to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) having the ability to inspect every workplace once every 190 years and just $3.99 in OSHA’s budget to protect each worker. Penalties for employer violations also remain too low to be a deterrent, and fewer than 130 worker deaths have been criminally prosecuted since 1970.
“The federal agencies responsible for safeguarding workers were created for a reason, and it’s past time that they received the funding and staffing they need to create and enforce worker protection standards,” said AFL-CIO Safety and Health Director Rebecca Reindel. “Employers should be held accountable for the working conditions on jobsites, and our lawmakers at every level must use their power to properly enforce the policies designed to protect us.”
Contact: Danielle Noel, 202-637-5018