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25 Things You Need to Know from the 2023 Death on the Job Report

Kenneth Quinnell, AFL-CIO
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This 2023 edition of Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect marks the 32nd year the AFL-CIO has produced a report on the state of safety and health protections for America’s workers. Over the past 50 years, there has been significant progress toward improving working conditions and protecting workers from job injuries, illnesses and deaths. The progress has become more challenging as employers’ opposition to workers’ rights and protections has grown, and attacks on unions have intensified. Big corporations and many Republicans have launched an aggressive assault on worker protections.

Here are 25 things from the 2023 Death on the Job report you need to know:

  1. There were 343 workers who died each day from hazardous working conditions.
  2. There were 5,190 workers who were killed on the job in the United States in 2021.
  3. An estimated 120,000 workers died from occupational diseases.
  4. The job fatality rate increased to 3.6 per 100,000 workers.
  5. Black workers died on the job at the highest rate in more than a decade.
  6. Latino workers continue to be at greater risk of dying on the job than all workers.
  7. Employers reported nearly 3.2 million work-related injuries and illnesses.
  8. The true impact of COVID-19 infections due to workplace exposures is unknown.
  9. Limited data show that more than 1.5 million nursing home workers have been infected with COVID-19 and more than 3,000 have died.
  10. Workplace violence, musculoskeletal disorders from repetitive motion injuries and occupational heat illness continue to be major problems, but data no longer is reported annually to track and understand these important issues.
  11. Underreporting is widespread—the true toll of work-related injuries and illnesses is 5.4 million to 8.1 million each year in private industry.
  12. The cost of job injuries and illnesses is enormous—estimated at $174 billion to $348 billion a year.
  13. States with the highest fatality rates in 2021 were Wyoming, North Dakota, Montana, Louisiana, Alaska and New Mexico.
  14. Industries with the highest fatality rates in 2021 were agriculture, forestry, and fishing and hunting; transportation and warehousing; mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction; construction; and wholesale trade.
  15. More than one-third of workplace fatalities occurred among workers ages 55 and older.
  16. Workers 65 and older have 2.3 times the risk of dying on the job as other workers, with a job fatality rate of 8.4 per 100,000 workers.
  17. Many children, mostly migrants, have become the focus of stark exploitation, working in dangerous conditions.
  18. Twenty-four children younger than 18 and 350 adults younger than 25 years old died on the job in 2021.
  19. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) resources in fiscal year (FY) 2022 still are too few to be a deterrent: There are 1,871 inspectors to inspect the 10.8 million workplaces under the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s (OSH Act's) jurisdiction.
  20. Federal OSHA has 145 additional inspectors than in FY 2021—but still only enough to inspect workplaces once every 190 years.
  21. There is one inspector for every 77,334 workers.
  22. The current OSHA budget amounts to $3.99 to protect each worker.
  23. Penalties in FY 2022 still are too weak: The average penalty for a serious violation was $4,354 for federal OSHA. The average penalty for a serious violation was $2,221 for OSHA state plans.
  24. The median penalty for killing a worker was $12,063 for federal OSHA. The median penalty for killing a worker was $7,000 for state OSHA plans.
  25. Only 128 worker death cases have been criminally prosecuted under the OSH Act since 1970.

The report also provides suggested policies to address these problems. Read the full report.