NSC Statement on Bureau of Labor Statistics Report for 2021

Highest Fatal Occupational Injury Rate Since 2016

December 16, 2022

WASHINGTON, Dec. 16, 2022 – The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) today released its annual report on fatal occupational injuries for 2021, and the results reveal a devastating increase of 8.9% from 2020. In 2020, there were 4,764 fatal work injuries recorded in the United States. In 2021, there were 5,190. Data show a fatal occupational injury rate at 3.6 in 2021, reflecting the highest annual rate since 2016.

“The data included in this report indicate workplaces have become less safe, and it is heartbreaking,” said Lorraine Martin, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “Everyone deserves the chance to live their fullest life. This report shows our mission to save lives, from the workplace to anyplace, is critical, and NSC is committed to doing its part to curb this deadly trend and put an end to preventable workplace fatalities.”

Some of the key takeaways from the report are:

  • The fatal work injury rate was 3.6 fatalities per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, up from 3.4 per 100,000 FTE in 2020 and up from the 2019 pre-pandemic rate of 3.5.
  • A worker died every 101 minutes from a work-related injury in 2021.
  • Workers in transportation and material-moving occupations experienced 1,523 fatal work injuries in 2021. These workers represent the occupational group with the highest number of fatalities. This is an increase of 18.8% from 2020. 
  • Transportation incidents remained the most frequent type of fatal event in 2021 with 1,982 fatal injuries, an increase of 11.5% from 2020. This major category accounted for 38.2% of all work-related fatalities for 2021. 
  • Unintentional overdose from nonmedical use of drugs or alcohol accounted for 464 deaths.
  • Suicides continued to trend down, decreasing to 236 in 2021 from 259 in 2020, an 8.9% decrease.

What is worse: According to BLS, the share of Black or African American workers fatally injured on the job reached an all-time high in 2021, rising from 11.4% of total fatalities in 2020 to 12.6% of total fatalities in 2021. Deaths for this group climbed to 653 in 2021 from 541 in 2020, an increase of nearly 21%, and the fatality rate increased from 3.5 in 2020 to 4.0 per 100,000 FTE workers in 2021.

Furthermore, intentional injury deaths by a person increased 21% for women in 2021 compared to a 9% increase for men. Fully, 23% of all women who die at work involve an intentional injury by a person. These numbers reveal more must be done to ensure equitable actions are taken to address workplace violence issues for everyone.

Using data to inform its efforts, NSC continues to double down on efforts like the Work to Zero initiative to help companies of all sizes keep their workers safe by understanding the technology to help them do so such as drones, fatigue monitoring and wearables, proximity sensors and virtual or augmented reality. It is clear that to ensure each worker makes it home safely each day, employers need a systematic approach to safety. This includes having policies, training and risk assessment and reduction techniques in place to prevent injuries and fatalities by using data in the BLS report to identify and address the leading causes, with the ultimate goal of keeping people safe on and off the job.

About the National Safety Council
The National Safety Council is America’s leading nonprofit safety advocate – and has been for more than 100 years. As a mission-based organization, we work to eliminate the leading causes of preventable death and injury, focusing our efforts on the workplace, roadway and impairment. We create a culture of safety to not only keep people safer at work, but also beyond the workplace so they can live their fullest lives.

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