Fatal occupational injuries in California rose again to their highest level in 11 years, recording more than 400 deaths for the second year in a row and further exposing the inequities faced by Latinx and older workers.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in December there were 451 job-related deaths in 2019, up from 422 in 2018 and the second year in a row to record more than 400 deaths since 2009, when 409 fatal injuries were reported.
It’s the highest death tally since 465 occupational fatalities were reported in 2008.
Transportation incidents continued to be the leading cause of death with 141, followed by violence by other persons or animals with 94, and slips, trips and falls with 88.
Latinx and Hispanic workers again accounted for the bulk of deaths in California — nearly half — at 47%, up from 43% in 2018 and a stark contrast to the 20% recorded nationally.
Workers aged 55 and older accounted for more than a third at 35%, up from 32% in 2018.
With these statistics continuing to increase for Latinx and older workers, it’s clear that more must be done to protect these employees with education and outreach targeted to their demographics. Increasing safety precautions and training should be a top priority for employers.
The rate of fatal workplace injuries per 100,000 also increased to 2.5, up from 2.3 in 2018, but still below the national rate of 3.5.
The agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting category had the highest incidence rate at 13.9, followed by transportation and utilities with 7.5 and construction with 6.5.
Nationally, the BLS reported there were 5,333 deaths in 2019, the highest national total since 2007, and noted that a worker died every 99 minutes from a work-related injury. Texas had the highest total of deaths at 608, followed by California at 451 and Florida with 306.
With the COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbating the inequities Latinx and older workers face, it’s more important than ever to hold employers accountable to instill protections, increase educational outreach and reduce their occupational death rates.
Dying on the job is a fate no worker should suffer. We must do better.
Michael Castillo is communications director for the California Applicants' Attorneys Association. This opinion is republished, with permission, from the CAAA website.
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