Industry Case Study

Which are the Most At-Risk Industries for Workplace Accidents?

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Since 2010, the three most at-risk industries for workplace accidents have been construction, transportation and warehousing, and agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting. While the specific annual numbers for each industry fluctuate every year, these three have remained consistent as the industries where most fatal work injuries occur, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Number of fatal work injuries by industry sector in 2019

  • According to data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following are the most at-risk industries for fatal work injuries in 2019:
    • Construction: 1,061 fatal work injuries
    • Transportation and warehousing: 913 fatal work injuries
    • Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting: 573 fatal work injuries
    • Government: 426 fatal work injuries
    • Retail trade: 291 fatal work injuries
    • Leisure and hospitality: 271 fatal work injuries
    • Other services (excluding public administration): 210 fatal work injuries
    • Educational and health services: 197 fatal work injuries
    • Wholesale trade: 178 fatal work injuries
    • Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction: 127 fatal work injuries
  • In 2019, the United States recorded 5,333 fatal work injuries, a 2% increase from 2018, and the highest number ever recorded annually since 2007.
  • In 2019, a worker died every 99 minutes from injuries sustained at work as work-related fatalities increased in the private construction industry by 5% to reach 1,061. This is the highest-recorded total in the category since 2007.
  • The type of jobs that contributed significantly to the increased workplace fatalities are driver/sales workers and truck drivers, ground maintenance workers, and construction and extraction occupations.
  • The most common on-the-job type of accidents reported are transportation incidents, falls, slips, and trips, exposure to harmful substances or environments, and unintentional overdoses.

Most-at-risk Industries in the United States in 2015

  • According to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 4,836 fatal work injuries in the US in 2015, an increase from the 4,821 fatal work injuries recorded in 2014.
  • The number recorded in 2015 was the highest then since 5,214 fatal injuries were recorded in 2008.
  • In 2015, roadway incident fatalities increased by 9%, and workplace homicides went up by 2%.
  • In 2015, the following were the most at-risk industries for workplace accidents, according to the number of fatal work injuries reported:
    • Construction: 937 fatal work injuries.
    • Transportation and warehousing: 765 fatal work injuries.
    • Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting: 570 fatal work injuries.
    • Professional and business services: 477 fatal work injuries
    • Government: 457 fatal work injuries.
    • Manufacturing: 353 fatal work injuries.
  • The civilian occupations with the highest fatal work injuries in 2015 were logging workers, fishers and related fishing workers, aircraft pilots and flight engineers, roofers, refuse and recyclable material collectors, structural iron and steelworkers, and driver/sales workers and truck drivers.
  • The most common types of on-the-job accidents reported in 2015 were as follows:
    • Transportation incidents (with the most common being roadway incidents): 2,054 fatal work injuries.
    • Falls, slips, trips (with the most common being falls to lower levels): 800 fatal work injuries.
    • Contact with objects and equipment: 722 fatal work injuries.
    • Violence and other injuries by persons or animals (with homicides being the most common): 703 fatal work injuries.
    • Exposure to harmful substances or environments: 424 fatal work injuries.
    • Fires and explosions : 121 fatal work injuries.

Most-at-risk Industries in the United States in 2010

  • In 2010, there were 4,690 fatal work injuries recorded in the United States, up from 4,551 in 2009.
  • Since 1992, the number of fatal work injuries has been decreasing, with some of the lowest cases being recorded in 2010.
  • The following were the most at-risk industries in 2010 according to the number of fatal work injuries recorded:
    • Construction : 774
    • Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting: 661
    • Transportation and warehousing: 621
    • Government: 484
    • Professional and business services: 364
    • Manufacturing: 329
    • Retail trade: 311
    • Leisure and hospitality: 238
    • Other services (excluding public admin.): 192
    • Wholesale trade: 191
    • Mining: 172
    • Educational and health services: 171
    • Financial activities: 113
    • Information: 43
    • Utilities: 26
  • In 2010, occupations that recorded the highest fatal work injuries were driver/sales workers and truck drivers (718), farmers and ranchers (308), construction laborers (202), aircraft pilots and flight engineers (78), and maintenance and repair workers (68.)
  • In 2010, the most common on-the-job incidents were fires and explosions, transportation incidents, exposure to harmful substances or environments, falls, contact with objects and equipment, and assaults and violent acts.

U.S. Industries Expected to be the Most Accident-Prone Industries in the Next Five to Ten Years

The latest industry-level data on fatal and non-fatal work injuries and illnesses suggest that the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industry, the transportation and warehousing industry, and the construction industry will remain the most accident-prone industries in the United States in the next five to ten years. However, there are insights suggesting that robots can increase workplace accident incidence rates and that the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the rise of at-home work injuries.

  • The following industries will likely be the most accident-prone industries in the next five to ten years: agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industry, transportation and warehousing industry, and construction industry.
  • Despite the long-standing existence of technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics, the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industry, the transportation and warehousing industry, and the construction industry have consistently emerged as three of the five industries with the highest rates of fatal work injuries in the past eight years. There are no signs that this list will change in the near future.
  • As can be seen in the chart below, these industries were three of the industries with the highest rates of fatal work injuries in 2019.

Rate of fatal work injuries, by industry sector, 2019Source

  • Following were their fatal work injury rates per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers.
  • Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting: 23.1
  • Transportation and warehousing: 13.9
  • Construction: 9.7
  • Each year during the period 2012-2018, these industries were also three of the industries with the highest fatal work injury rates.

Rank by death rates, 2012-2018

  • These industries had also consistently emerged as three of the industries with the highest rates of non-fatal work injuries and illnesses each year during the period 2012-2018.

Rank by non-fatal injury and illness rates

Impact of Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and the COVID-19 Pandemic

  • Despite the potential of artificial intelligence and robotics to improve workplace or worker safety, quantitative data showing their industry-level impact on worker safety are in short supply. A research report only shows that, in the United States, especially the country’s manufacturing industry, “a one standard deviation increase in robot exposure reduces work-related injuries by approximately 16%
  • There is also evidence that robots may lead to higher work injury rates. Data gathered by the Center for Investigative Reporting shows that Amazon’s serious injury rates at its robotic fulfillment centers are over 50% higher than its serious injury rates at its non-robotic fulfillment centers.
  • Recent research also indicates that in the country, only 1.3% of businesses have adopted robotics, only 2.8% of businesses have adopted machine learning, and only 1.7% have adopted machine vision.
  • According to Erik Brynjolfsson and Matt Beane, the authors of the MIT Sloan Management Review article “Working with Robots in a Post-Pandemic World,” while the COVID-19 pandemic might push businesses to invest heavily in automation, “most companies which [invest] in automation on a grand scale are likely to see their efforts fail, while those that succeed will be atypical.”
  • The number of at-home work injuries has risen since the COVID-19 pandemic has forced local governments to issue stay-at-home orders.
GLENN TREVOR
Glenn is the Lead Operations Research Analyst at Simple Manifestation with experience in research, statistical data analysis and interview techniques. A holder of degree in Economics. A true specialist in quantitative and qualitative research.

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