The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) today released the National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries for 2015, with many statistics trending up, rather than down. The occupation with the most fatalities was tractor-trailer or heavy truck operator.

“These numbers underscore the urgent need for employers to provide a safe workplace for their employees as the law requires. We have a moral responsibility to make sure that workers who showed up to work today are still alive to punch the clock tomorrow," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “The fact is, we know how to prevent these deaths. The U.S. Department of Labor is – and will always be – committed to working with employers, workers, community organizations, unions and others to improve safety and health in our nation’s workplaces. This effort is essential to ensuring that no more workers are taken unnecessarily from their families.”

A total of 4,836 fatal work injuries were recorded in the United States in 2015, a slight increase from the 4,821 fatal injuries reported in 2014, BLS reported. Key findings of the 2015 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries include:

  • Annual total of 4,836 fatal workplace injuries in 2015 was the highest since 5,214 fatal injuries in 2008.
  • The overall rate of fatal work injury for workers in 2015, at 3.38 per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, was lower than the 2014 rate of 3.43.
  • Hispanic or Latino workers incurred 903 fatal injuries in 2015, the most since 937 fatalities in 2007.
  • Workers age 65 years and older incurred 650 fatal injuries, the second-largest number for the group since the national census began in 1992, but decreased from the 2014 figure of 684.
  • Roadway incident fatalities were up 9 percent from 2014 totals, accounting for over one-quarter of the fatal occupational injuries in 2015.
  • Workplace suicides decreased 18 percent in 2015; homicides were up 2 percent from 2014 totals.
  • Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers recorded 745 fatal injuries, the most of any occupation.
  • The 937 fatal work injuries in the private construction industry in 2015 represented the highest total since 975 cases in 2008.
  • Seventeen percent of decedents were contracted by and performing work for another business or government entity in 2015 rather than for their direct employer at the time of the incident.

The news wasn’t all bad: Fatal injuries in the private oil and gas extraction industries were 38 percent lower in 2015 than 2014. Also, based on the results, the rate of fatal workplace injuries in 2015 was 3.38 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, lower than the 2014 rate of 3.43.

"The 2015 job BLS fatality report shows that working people are paying a very high price for unsafe dangerous working conditions in this country," said AFL-CIO Director of Safety and Health Peg Seminario. "According to BLS, 4,836 workers were killed on the job – an average of 13 workers a day – about the same number and rate as the previous year."

She noted that for some groups of workers, the problem is getting worse: "Deaths among Latino and immigrant workers - who have always faced greater risk - increased significantly, as did deaths in dangerous industries like construction and trucking," Seminario said.

"The bottom line is that working people in this country need more safety and health protection, not less. The new administration’s actions on worker safety will be an important measure of whether they are keeping their campaign promises to improve the lives of workers," Seminario concluded.