Call For Action: EHS Functions Fear For Increases In Workplace Fatalities

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Call For Action: EHS Functions Fear For Increases In Workplace Fatalities

On 16th December 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the 2021 census of fatal occupational injuries. Its results indicate that in 2021, 5,190 workers suffered from fatal work injuries. This is a 9% increase from 2020, equating to one worker death in the USA every 101 minutes. So how do these statistics stack up with previous years? Well, the fatal work injury rate for 2021 was 3.6 fatalities per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, which is the highest since 2016. This is an increase from 2020 and 2019, with rates of 3.4 and 3.5 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers respectively.

Breaking down these statistics by demographics and occupation, the results are alarming. Statistics indicate that workers in the transportation sector suffer from the highest fatality rates. In 2021, there were 1,982 fatal injuries, which is an 11.5% increase from 2020. Transportation alone accounted for 38.2% of all work-related fatalities in 2021. Analysing these statistics by ethnicity, we find that Black and Latino workers suffered from fatality rates disproportionately higher than their co-workers. The former suffered 653 deaths, placing the fatality rate of Black workers at an all-time high.

These statistics highlight the issue that, despite significant improvements in non-fatal workplace injuries over the past two decades, fatality reduction has lagged. From 2003 to 2018, fatalities fell by 325, which is only a 5% reduction over a 15-year period. Firms have recognised this problem: 56% of the 300 respondents to the latest Verdantix global corporate survey consider reducing serious injuries and fatalities (SIFs) as a high priority for their EHS function this year. To achieve this goal, it is likely that businesses will call on EHS services to help, as 43% of respondents to the latest survey on EHS services state that these organizations are ‘very important’ in reducing SIFs. Specifically, firms have recognised the emerging technology and analytical techniques that EHS services use to identify and mitigate SIFs. With sophisticated analytical tools and thorough change management strategies, EHS functions can increase data collection and documentation, which can be used for risk identification.

One firm making headway in this space is German-based service firm DEKRA. To tackle these challenges, it has developed a tailored SIF reduction strategy by leveraging SIF analysis and root cause assessment, metrics to monitor SIF potential and targeted training to boost awareness of high-risk exposures. With this comprehensive strategy, organizations can identify potential risks sooner and implement policies that minimize their impact.

It is clear from these statistics that firms must act decisively to reduce the number of deaths in the workplace. Although this challenge is never smooth, EHS software and services have the capability to support these SIF-focused initiatives. As the digitization era continues, firms will be more equipped than ever before to solve this issue.

Zain Idris


Zain is an Analyst in the Verdantix EHS practice out of the London office. His current research agenda focuses on, digitising permits to work, and EHS software for occupational health. Prior to working as an analyst, Zain worked as a summer intern at Verdantix, recording major mergers and acquisitions witnessed within each practice. Zain holds a BSc in Economics from the University of Warwick.