With workplace fatalities up, ASSP urges adoption of voluntary safety standards and systems

by Brianna Crandall — December 20, 2019 — The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) just released the workplace fatality data from 2018, and the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) responded to the higher numbers with a call for more companies to adopt voluntary safety standards and implement safety and health management systems.

BLS statistics

The newly released work-related fatality data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that 5,250 fatal work injuries occurred in 2018, a 2% increase from the previous year’s total of 5,147. It is the fourth time in the past five years that fatal occupational injuries increased.


Transportation-related workers dominated the fatalities by occupation, along with loggers, fishers and law enforcement personnel

Fatal event or exposure

As to the type of fatal event or exposure:

  • Transportation incidents remained the most frequent type of fatal event at 2,080, accounting for 40% of all work-related fatalities.
  • Incidents involving contact with objects and equipment increased 13% (from 695 to 786), driven by a 39% increase in workers caught in running equipment or machinery and a 17% increase in workers struck by falling objects or equipment.
  • Unintentional overdoses due to nonmedical use of drugs or alcohol while at work increased 12% from 272 to 305. This is the sixth consecutive annual increase.
  • Violence and other injuries by persons or animals increased 3% in 2018, due to an 11% increase in work-related suicides from 275 to 304.
  • Fatal falls, slips, and trips decreased 11% to 791, after reaching a series high of 887 in 2017. This decline was due to a 14% drop in falls to a lower level (713 to 615), the lowest total since 2013.

The BLS fatality data comes on the heels of the Bureau’s annual injuries and illnesses report, which showed a stagnation of nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2018. It was the first time since 2012 that the incidence rate did not decrease.

To read more about the BLS fatality data, or to view a chart of fatal occupational injuries, total hours worked, and rates of fatal occupational injuries by selected worker characteristics, occupations, and industries, civilian workers, 2018, or to see graphs for the number of fatal work injuries by employee status, race or ethnic origin, age group, industry sector, gender, state (map) and more, visit the BLS website.

ASSP response for safety-related professionals

In response to the BLS fatality data, global professional safety organization the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) is urging employers to be more active in adopting voluntary national consensus standards and implementing safety and health management systems.

ASSP President Diana Stegall, CSP, CFPS, ARM, SMS, CPCU, stated:

With the innovative tools available to today’s employers nationwide, it’s concerning that we’re continuing to see higher numbers of worker fatalities. Most occupational incidents are preventable given today’s technologies and proven safety and health strategies.

Voluntary consensus standards promote best practices and prevent worker injuries, illnesses and fatalities — especially valuable during this time of low activity in regulatory development at the federal level, notes ASSP. The Society is the secretariat for many standards committees in the United States and worldwide, forming expert groups and ensuring standards are developed and revised in accordance with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

While regulatory entities like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) set workplace safety standards mandated by law, voluntary consensus standards are those guidelines that safety-minded organizations choose to implement because of their merit, explains ASSP. Consensus standards reflect diverse viewpoints and represent state-of-the-art practices and technologies while addressing gaps where no regulatory standard exists in today’s rapidly changing environment.

Stegall continued:

Voluntary national consensus standards can transform safety programs from compliance-based cost centers to corporate sustainability initiatives that save lives and positively impact the organization’s bottom line.

ASSP believes that improvement in workplace safety should also be anchored in safety and health management systems such as the newly revised ANSI/ASSP Z10.0-2019 Standard. Z10 is a blueprint for any company to develop and administer a safety and health management system. It establishes an operational foundation by ensuring that critical processes are integrated. Customized elements are based on the organization’s characteristics such as hazard exposures, risk levels, industry type and business processes.

Stegall concluded:

Strong workplace cultures that bring together management and employees while including safety and health climates must become a priority for all companies and organizations. ASSP will continue to push for better protection of workers to ensure that everyone returns home safe to their families every day.

To learn more about voluntary consensus standards, visit the ASSP website. Current standards topics are:

  • Active Shooter/Armed Assailant Preparedness Plan (TR-Z590.5)
  • Confined Spaces (Z117.1)
  • Construction and Demolition Operations (A10)
  • Fall Protection and Fall Restraint (Z359)
  • Fleet/Motor Vehicles (Z15)
  • Hydrogen Sulfide Training (Z390.1)
  • Lockout, Tagout and Alternative Methods (Z244.1)
  • Machine Guarding (B11)
  • OSH Management (Z10; ISO 45001)
  • OSH Training (Z490)
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Prevention Through Design (Z590.3)
  • Risk Management (ISO 31000; ANSI/ASSP Z690)
  • Ventilation Systems (Z9)
  • Walking/Working Surfaces (A1264)
  • Work/Aerial Work Platforms (A92)

Facilities managers (FMs) and safety managers may also be interested in OSHA’s guides, eTools, factsheets and more on a wide variety of safety topics from abatement verification and accident investigation to young workers and Zika virus.