According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, fatal workplace injuries rose 7% between 2015 and 2016. The total number of deaths attributed to workplace incidents in 2016 was 5,190 — a tiny fraction of the more than 150 million working Americans, but nonetheless alarming. Let’s digest these statistics to understand why this is happening and discuss prevention, including where you can go looking for a certificate in health and safety in the United States and Canada.
Why Workplace Fatalities are On the Rise
The Bureau of Labour Statistics categorizes workplace fatalities into six types of incidents:
- Transportation incidents
- Falls, slips, and trips
- Contact with objects and equipment
- Workplace violence
- Harmful substances or environments
- Fires and explosions
The majority of fatalities (43%) were attributed to the first category, transportation incidents. These include people who drive for a living (couriers, truckers, etc.) and workers driving from one workplace to another (visiting a client at their office, for example).
Transportation accidents is a significant factor behind the increase in fatal incidents. Based on the number of on-the-job fatalities, trucking is the most dangerous job in both Canada and the United States.
However, transportation isn’t the only reason why the number of workplace fatalities is rising.
Loren Sweatt, deputy assistant secretary for OSHA, stated that the North American opioid crisis is on the Department of Labour’s radar in terms of its impact on workplace accidents and deaths. She says the crisis “is impacting Americans every day at home and, as this data demonstrates, increasingly on the job.”
Fatalities have also risen in growing sectors of the economy, including healthcare and food services — two sectors known for having low attention and oversight from workplace safety agencies in the United States.
Preventing Workplace Fatalities
Government oversight is an important piece of the prevention effort, but inspectors cannot have eyes in every workplace all the time. It is for that reason that employees in all sectors across the economy should receive adequate health and safety education.
Where to go looking for a certificate in health and safety varies by state and province.
- For the United States, the Department of Labour has provided a list of health and safety certificate and degree programs available in various states across the country.
- Since Canadian employment standards are largely in the purview of the provinces and territories, there is no federal government list of health and safety certificate programs. We recommend contacting the labour ministry for your province.
More information on certification in Ontario is available here.