National Safety Council Statement on Rise in Accidental Workplace Deaths

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Itasca, IL—The National Safety Council is disheartened to see a small rise in unintentional, preventable worker fatalities—4,414 deaths in 2017 compared to 4,398 in 2016—according to federal data released today. Notably, accidental drug overdoses increased, claiming 272 lives in 2017 compared with 217 the previous year. Work-related motor vehicle crashes also rose—1,299 fatalities from 1,252—as well as falls to a lower level (713 deaths from 697).

Motor vehicle crashes and falls are the leading causes of preventable death on the job. Drug overdose is an emerging workplace threat, and it rapidly has become the No. 1 cause of preventable death off the job. Once again, the data clearly show we are not doing enough to mitigate the risks of these everyday killers. At work, leadership should set the tone and engage all employees in safety, identifying hazards and measuring safety performance using leading indicators to ensure continuous improvement.

All employers need to take a systematic approach to safety. This includes having policies and training in place to address the major causes of fatalities and injuries. The National Safety Council offers resources to help employers improve their safety performance and keep their workers safe. These include a free Safe Driving Kit and Prescription Drug Employer Toolkit. The Campbell Institute at the Council provides helpful information in its white paper, “Serious Injury and Fatality Prevention: Perspectives and Practices.” Employers can also join the Road to Zero coalition to help end fatalities on our roadways.

Workplace injuries and fatalities should never be considered a cost of doing business. Every worker deserves a safe work environment and to return home safely every day.

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