Stronger Regulations, Oversight Credited for Decline in Workplace Fatalities

Stronger initiatives by industry and stricter enforcement of rules and regulations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are being credited for a decline in workplace fatalities in the United States last year.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which presented its recent report on workplace fatalities, 4,609 people died in workplace accidents in 2011. That is a drop of 1.7% from 2010, and also a dramatic decline of 22% from the figures in 2001.

A combination of efforts by employers, industry groups as well as worker groups has helped reduce workplace fatality rates. In many industries, employers have launched initiatives that are aimed at keeping workers safer by preventing accidents like falls, or equipment-related injuries. More employers are investing in training for workers, especially in crucial activities like lockout and tag out procedures, and operation of industrial vehicles. Workers who perform these activities may be at a high risk of certain debilitating injuries, like amputations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has also increased inspections and enforcement of rules, leading to better compliance.

The good news is that last year’s figures are only the most recent in a series of declines in workplace fatalities.  Since 1994, when there were a total of 6,632 workplace accident fatalities in the country, there have been continuous declines in these rates.

The bad news is that 4,600+ workers dying in mostly preventable accidents in the workplace is definitely a cause for concern.  There is no reason for the federal administration to rest on its laurels, and no cause for industry groups to stop the current good work that they’re doing in helping keep workers safe.  These initiatives must continue until we see more declines in preventable fatalities, like those that occur in slip and falls, trench collapses, and crane/forklift accidents.