In a press call, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler highlights how this year’s report shows that worker injuries and deaths are far too common. Shuler expresses urgency in holding OSHA, MSHA, Congress and employers everywhere accountable for stronger safety measures.
(Washington, D.C., April 26, 2022)—As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect countless working people, with nearly 1 million deaths in the United States, the AFL-CIO today released its 31st annual report, Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, a national and state-by-state profile of worker safety and health.
During a video press conference, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler outlined the findings of this year’s report and stressed the federation’s commitment to worker safety. She was joined by AFL-CIO Safety and Health Director Rebecca Reindel; MJ Burke, first executive vice president of AFGE National VA Council; and Isaiah Thomas, an Amazon warehouse worker in Bessemer, Alabama.
This year’s report reveals 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, 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. 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.
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 our workplaces without the fear of retaliation or intimidation.
“Having regulations is important,” said Burke during the call. “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, I can tell you why I joined a union, it’s about the safety and security of each other.”
“Amazon loves to brag about how they have a safe work environment, and if there are any issues, the workers can bring them up to management,” said Thomas. “However we do not work in a safe work environment, and every time we bring these issues up to management, we are not heard, which is why we’re fighting so hard for our union at Amazon.”