Uninvestigated fatal workplace injuries in the United States

Source: Bethany Boggess, Lisa Pompeii, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, Version of Record online: September 7, 2020
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From the abstract:
Approximately 5000 people are killed by an injury at work every year, but the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) only investigates 25%–35% of these deaths. The aim of this study was to identify industry, geographic, and worker demographic disparities in the proportion of fatal workplace injuries that are investigated by OSHA.

This cross‐sectional analysis drew from 2 years of public data (2014–2015) from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries and investigation data from OSHA. Differences by worker age and sex, geographic region, industry, and State Plan‐ versus Federal Plan‐state were examined.

Nationally, OSHA investigated about one in four (27.5%) of the 9657 fatal workplace injuries that occurred. Higher odds of uninvestigated fatalities were observed for female workers compared to male workers (odds ratio, 2.35; 95% confidence interval, 1.89, 2.93), for workers over age 65 compared to those aged 18–24 (3.05; 2.44, 3.82), for worker deaths occurring in State Plan states compared to Federal Plan states (1.64; 1.49, 1.79), among other differences.

Although some of the disparities could be explained by OSHA jurisdiction restrictions, other areas of potential reform were identified, such as investigating a greater number of workplace violence deaths and increasing focus in industries with a low proportion of investigations but a high number of fatalities, such as transportation and warehousing. Consideration should be given to adapt policies, expand OSHA jurisdiction, and to increase OSHA resources for conducting both fatality investigations and proactive investigations that can identify and abate hazards before a worker is injured.