OSHA Fatality Reports - A Sobering Training Resource

Action shot of ambulance on street

As a safety professional it is easy to say that safety is important for all workers in all industries. Seeing the multitude of workplace injuries that occur each day make it real. But for average employees, safety sometimes seems so distant and theoretical that it lacks the appropriate influence. In other words, often employees don’t take safety seriously because they don’t think it will happen to them. They may think it’s all common sense and that no one would actually die from the job they’re doing. But the sad truth is that in 2019, 5,333 workers died on the job. That’s more than 100 per week or about 15 people per day.

A safety training resource that can be highly effective is the OSHA Fatality Reports. These reports are updated regularly and generally lag by only a few months. Each report includes the fatality date, the city and state, the hazard description, and a link to any citation that was issued as a result of the incident. Reports can be sorted by any of these categories, so it is quick and easy to find fatalities related to a specific hazard or even those in your home state.

The reports are as eye opening as they are depressing. But this is exactly what makes them useful for safety training. These are not “what could happen” scenarios, but “what did happen” scenarios. These are real people who suffered fatal injuries and didn’t go home to their families at the end of the workday.

A recent review of the most recent OSHA Fatality Reports revealed the usual, and tragic, mayhem in the workplace. Deaths from the “Focus Four” were predominant- these are the four most common causes of serious injury and fatalities in the construction industry. Those are struck by, caught between, falls, and electrocution. Nearly all of the fatalities reviewed fell into one of these four categories. A sound safety program that requires appropriate safety controls for these four categories will likely prevent most workplace serious injuries and fatalities.

Another sobering statistic that should make us all think is the age of the workers who are dying on the job. Not all fatalities listed include the worker’s age, but many do. On the first page of the fatality report, spanning 11/27/21 through 1/18/22, the workers killed ranged from 17 years old to 78 years old. Anyone, of any age, in any state, can die on the job unless safety is taken very seriously.

The next time you are preparing for a safety training session and need a topic, give the fatality reports a look. You’ll be amazed at the number of people killed by falling from ladders, being struck by vehicles, or electrocuted by contacting power lines. Falling to the floor is a common cause as is workplace violence. You don’t have to be in construction to be killed on the job. No one is immune to these hazards and reviewing them with your team might have a lasting effect.

2022 is well underway, but it’s never too late to focus on making this a safe year for everyone at your organization. In addition to the fatality reports, consider these helpful OSHA training resources.