For some people, the biggest risk they face at work is arriving late, missing a deadline, or getting yelled at by their boss. But for others, it’s a serious injury, or worse.
In 2018, 5,250 workplace deaths were recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The rate of fatal work injuries was 3.5 per 100,000 workers, the same rate as the year prior.
Employers in certain, dangerous industries also face a great risk, which is hefty liabilities. After all, they are responsible for the safety of their employees. However, because of the nature of their industries, the factors that increase the chances of injuries or death aren’t always within their control. Sometimes, no matter how much they protect their employees, accidents occur.
And in some cases, even low-risk employees may face a higher likelihood of getting hurt on the job. When you send them out for errands, for instance, they may meet an accident on the road, get robbed and injured, etc.
That said, if you’re about to hire employees for your startup, no matter your industry, here are the things you need to know about work-related injuries and deaths:
The Riskiest Occupations
The BLS identified the following as the most dangerous occupations in the U.S.:
- Logging workers: 1,040 non-fatal injuries, 74 fatal
- Fishers and related fisher workers: N/A non-fatal injury, 30 fatal
- Aircraft pilots and flight engineers: 490 non-fatal injuries, 70 fatal
- Roofers: 2,060 non-fatal injuries, 96 fatal
- Refuse and recyclables collectors: 1,490 non-fatal injuries, 37 fatal
- Drivers/sale workers and truck drivers: 78,520 non-fatal injuries, 966 fatal
- Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural workers: 280 non-fatal injuries, 257 fatal
- Structural iron and steel workers: 800 non-fatal injuries, 15 fatal
- Construction and extraction first-line supervisors: 5,390 non-fatal injuries, 144 fatal
- Landscaping and/or lawn service first-line supervisors, and groundskeeping workers: 1,990 non-fatal injuries, 142 fatal
These occupations had the most injuries and deaths, as per the BLS’s 2017 data. Though drivers/sales workers and truck drivers had the most fatalities, logging workers had a higher fatality rate that year, totaling 97.6 per 100,000, while that of driver/sales workers and truck drivers’ was only 26 per 100,000.
Most Common Work-related Injury Causes
According to Injury Facts’ 2019 infographic, the following were the top causes of work-related injuries:
- Overexertion and bodily reaction: 31%
- Falls, slips, and trips: 27.5%
- Contact with objects/equipment: 25.8%
- Transportation incidents: 5.6%
- Violence or other injuries by persons or animals: 5%
- Exposure to hazardous substances or environments: 4.2%
Determining an Employer’s Liability
The laws on occupational safety and health state that employers are responsible for providing their employees with a safe workspace. The OSHA established a set of standards for various industries, which all employers are bound to follow. So for example, if your employee slips in the office, you should immediately carry out the procedure set by the OSHA to minimize your liability.
If the cause of your employee’s accident is a preexisting condition, for instance, dizzy spells or seizures, you must follow the same protocols, and ensure that your employee is safe and able to resume work after the treatment.
What if your employee has met an accident while they’re attending a seminar? Or while crossing the road to go to the bank and deposit your company’s cash?
In those cases, you are also liable if the accident occurred within their working hours. Aside from the usual 9 to 5 they spend in the office, the following also counts as work time:
- Rework, both voluntary and involuntary
- Waiting for work, whether the employee has tasks to do while waiting (a.k.a. engaged to wait)
- If the employee is on-call in their workplace, but not at home
- Short rest breaks within the employer’s designated length, or extended breaks without permission
- Business events, if it’s within your business hours with a required attendance
In some cases, sleep time can also count as work time, particularly if the employee is required to work for over 24 hours. But the employer may reduce a certain amount of sleep time as work time.
Travel time may also count as work time, but that depends on various circumstances. But commuting to work isn’t included in those, and therefore isn’t paid work time.
To further answer the questions above: Yes, you are liable for your employee’s injuries in both situations. Their health insurance will cover their medical expenses. In the case of the employee crossing the road, you will also aid them in seeking an experienced pedestrian accident lawyer if they were hit by a reckless motorist.
Ensuring worker safety is a tough task, no matter your industry because safety hazards exist in all kinds of workplaces. But as long as you abide by OSHA’s standards and provide the necessary compensation for incidents, you’ve done your duty as a just and reliable employer.