Industrial Accidents in America

“Almost any horrible death you can think of,” says The Economist, “Americans are more likely to suffer it. Over 5,000 people died in 2021 in workplace accidents, up by 9% on the previous year; the figure in Britain was 123.”

Why does the United States have more industrial accidents than other developed countries? The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has looked into this question. Right off, they pointed out that the figures from the EU (that’s what they were comparing the US to) aren’t directly comparable to those from the US. That comparison between Britain and the United States is shocking — but we have a lot more people than they do. The BLS calculated the rates of injury per worker for both places.

For another thing, the U.S. counts suicides and the EU does not. A suicide is not an industrial accident, even if it is a workplace fatality. You could argue in either direction on the question of whether such deaths should be counted. But since the EU does not track workplace suicides, it is more accurate for comparison to remove those fatalities from the US figures, too.

With these and a couple of other adjustments, the EU turned up a rate of 2.8 fatalities per 100,000 workers. The US had 3.1. The AFL-CIO says 3.4 in a more recent report.

But does the US have the most fatalities?

An academic article from New Zealand found that New Zealand and Australia both had even higher rates of workplace fatalities than the United States — 4.9 and 3.8 per 100,000 workers, respectively. The US had a higher rate of intentional acts of violence leading to workplace deaths, but the researchers still concluded that the US must have been underreporting fatalities.

The difference becomes even more striking once we leave clearly developed countries. Bhutan has a mortality rate of 31.9 workers per 100,000. In Nepal it’s 28.8, in Cuba 25. Europe is safer — Iceland, in fact, had zero fatalities per 100,000 workers — but Africa, Asia, and most of Latin America all offer greater danger to workers.

What’s the solution?

The International Labor Office says that awareness and information are the key. Once people begin to think about and discuss safety, they prioritize safety, and safer workplaces develop from that point.

What can you do to increase safety in your workplace?

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