National COSH raises alarm bells over rising workplace deaths in the U.S.
Global OHS News National COSH USA
The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) has raised an alarm over the increase in workplace fatalities in the United States, citing the need for decisive action to enhance worker safety.
According to National COSH, there were 5,486 sudden workplace deaths in 2022, marking a 5.7% rise from the previous year. Jessica E. Martinez, co-executive director of National COSH, emphasized that worker safety should be a priority and that lives should not be at stake for a paycheck.
High rate of deaths for Black, Hispanic and Latino workers
A concerning trend highlighted by the 2022 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), is the disproportionately high rate of workplace deaths among Black and Hispanic or Latino workers.
The fatal injury rate for Black workers rose to 4.2 per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, while the rate for Hispanic or Latino workers increased to 4.6 per 100,000 FTE workers, both surpassing the overall rate of 3.7 per 100,000 FTE workers.
The report also shed light on the surge in deaths from workplace violence, unintentional overdoses, and suicides, with workplace violence fatalities alone jumping by 11.6% since 2021. Moreover, the CFOI data do not account for deaths caused by long-term occupational hazards, which are estimated to claim around 95,000 lives annually in the U.S.
Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, another co-executive director of National COSH, expressed grief over the preventable nature of these tragedies, especially during the holiday season when the absence of these workers is profoundly felt by their families and communities.
To combat these issues, National COSH recommends several urgent actions:
- Engaging workers in creating and training for comprehensive safety programs, including participation in safety committees and hazard reporting without fear of retaliation.
- Full enforcement of whistleblower protections and expanded safety protections for all workers, irrespective of their immigration status.
- Developing effective workplace violence prevention programs with worker input.
- Establishing a nationwide standard to safeguard workers from extreme heat, a growing concern due to climate change.
- Revising guidelines to better protect healthcare workers from pandemics and other infectious diseases, criticizing the current CDC proposals as inadequate.
- Increasing funding for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to enable regular inspections and enforcement of safety regulations.
Martinez concludes by asserting that reducing workplace fatalities is an achievable goal, requiring a worker-centered approach and adherence to scientific principles. The implementation of these measures, she argues, could lead to significantly fewer workplace fatalities and injuries in the future.