The Occupational Health and Safety Administration, more commonly known as OSHA, is the bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor responsible for enforcing workplace safety regulations and investigating complaints about hazardous job sites.  Together with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), OSHA tracks national data about worker injuries and fatalities across a wide range of occupations.  So which industries have the highest death and injury rates?  And what common factors cause accidents, injuries, and wrongful death to happen on the job?

OSHA Statistics on Workplace Death and Injury Rates by Industry

Referring to BLS data, OSHA reports that “4,585 workers were killed on the job in 2013.”  Spread across the year, that total amounts to an average of about 13 deaths per day.  Nonfatal accidents were far more common, with about 3 million occurring in 2013 for a rough average of 8,219 injuries and illnesses per day, according to a 2014 BLS news release.

With regard to fatal workplace accidents and injuries, contractors and construction workers were at an elevated risk.  Contractors accounted for 16% of all fatal accidents, while the construction industry in general was exceptionally dangerous compared to other industries and occupations.  Among the fatal accidents in private industries reported in 2013, a total of 828 occurred within the construction industry alone.

In fact, deaths and fatal injuries are so widespread in the construction industry that OSHA has even identified the “Fatal Four” in reference to the four leading causes of construction industry accidents:

  • Falls – 302 out of 828 deaths (36.5%)
  • Object strikes (e.g. falling beams) – 84 out of 828 deaths (10.1%)
  • Electrocutions – 71 out of 828 deaths (8.6%)
  • Being caught in between objects/surfaces/machinery – 21 out of 828 deaths (2.5%)

Some of these factors also happen to roughly correlate to the leading causes of traumatic brain injury, or TBI.  According to CDC data, from 2006 to 2010, falls accounted for 40% of TBI cases, while strikes by or against objects (i.e. blunt trauma) accounted for 15.5% of TBI cases.

Widening the net to account for all industries, the leading causes of fatal occupational injuries in 2013 were:

  • Transportation Incidents – 40%
    • Roadway Incidents – 22%
    • Other – 17%
  • Assaults and Attacks (Human/Animal) – 17%
    • Homicides – 9%
    • Other – 8%
  • Contact with Objects/Equipment – 16%
    • Object Strikes – 11%
    • Other – 5%
  • Slip and Fall Accidents – 16%
    • Falls – 13%
    • Other – 3%
  • Exposure to Substances/Environments – 7%
  • Fires and Explosions – 3%

In addition to construction, other industries with high fatal injury counts – some of which are unexpected – included the following:

  • Transportation and Warehousing – 687 fatal injuries
  • Agriculture – 479 fatal injuries
  • Government – 476 fatal injuries
  • Business Services – 408 fatal injuries
  • Manufacturing – 304 fatal injuries
  • Retail Trade – 253 fatal injuries
  • Leisure and Hospitality – 202 fatal injuries
  • Wholesale Trade – 190 fatal injuries
  • “Other Services” – 179 fatal injuries
  • Mining, Quarrying, Oil, and Gas – 154 fatal injuries

Pennsylvania deaths by industry were ranked a little differently.  For instance, agriculture (including forestry, fishing, and hunting) had the highest rate of fatal accidents, followed by transportation/utilities and construction in second and third place, respectively.


contruction worker injured onsite

Worker’s Comp vs. Personal Injury Lawsuits

If an employee gets injured at work (or while performing job duties), he or she has a few potential options when it comes to getting compensated.

Workers’ comp is generally available for all workers who are injured or who become seriously ill in the course of performing employment duties, even if the employer did not violate any safety standards or other regulations.  In order to claim workers’ comp, there are three broad requirements which typically must be met:

  • The injury victim must have a formal employee-employer relationship with the employer.
  • The employer must carry worker’s compensation insurance (or be required to do so by law).
  • The injury or illness must be connected to the plaintiff’s employment / job duties.

Laws about workers’ comp vary by state and worker classification – for instance, whether the worker is an employee or an independent contractor.  If your employer deliberately misclassified you in an effort to circumvent labor laws, you should contact an attorney for assistance immediately.

For more information about workers’ comp in Pennsylvania, refer to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.

For more information about worker’s comp in New Jersey, refer to the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Injured Workers.

As discussed above, usually, the employee will file a worker’s compensation claim. However, there are instances where a an injured employee can file a third party claim in addition to receiving workers compensation.  This will depend on the circumstances under which the accident occurred.   Personal injury lawsuits and wrongful death lawsuits against a third party can be successful a defendant, other than your employer, engaged in some form of reckless or intentional conduct which caused or significantly contributed to the accident.

For instance, if a construction worker was seriously injured in a fall accident caused by a defective industrial lift, then the worker may be able to recover damages for injuries against the manufacturer or designer of the lift, in addition to receiving workers compensation benefits.

If you were hurt on the job because of a workplace safety violation, you may be able to recover compensation to help with your medical bills, loss of income, and other expenses.  To discuss your accident in a free and private case evaluation, call personal injury lawyer Brent Wieand at (800) 481-5206 today.