Workplace Fatality Rate Stagnates While Suicide Rate Increases Dramatically
The rate of workplace fatalities in the U.S. has remained relatively unchanged in the past year, while there has been a dramatic increase in the rate of suicides.
The data comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, who released its latest report just a few weeks ago, detailing the national census of fatal occupational injuries. The report explains that “there were 5,250 fatal work injuries recorded in the United States in 2018, a 2 percent increase from the 5,147 in 2017.”
“The fatal work injury rate remained unchanged at 3.5 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers.”
While the fatality rate remained unchanged, the rate of suicides in the workplace was observed to have risen by 11%, from 275 to 304 in the latest data year. The most dangerous segment for workplace fatalities remained the transportation industry, accounting for 40% of all workplace fatalities for the year.
The report also noted that incidents involving contact with objects and equipment increased by 13%, with a 39% increase of workers getting caught in running machinery and a 17% increase in the rate of workers getting hit by falling equipment and objects.
Interestingly, there was also a 12% increase in the rate of “unintentional overdoses due to nonmedical use of drugs or alcohol while at work”, which was the sixth consecutive rise in the prevalence of unintentional overdoses.
Since 1999, suicide rates in the U.S. have been rising at around 33% each year. It’s said that construction workers have the highest rate of suicide of all occupations at a rate of 2.5 times that of the national average.
“Ten years ago, most companies saw suicide as a personal or medical issue, and would say it has nothing to do with work,” Sally Spencer Thomas, a psychologist and board president of United Suicide Survivors International said.
“I was banging my head against the wall trying to convince companies to talk to me. Compared to now, when I’m getting calls from major global conglomerates seeking me out, looking for answers and strategy. There’s almost too much to do,” she added.
“Often it requires a high-level leader to step forward and say this matters. It can’t be shoved off to the wellness people or HR folks. For things to change, it takes a top executive saying this is important to our company, our mission and to me.”
Larry Barton, a threat and risk consultant for a number of large organisations echoed this sentiment, adding that “we’re talking about really difficult, complicated situations.”
“I’m getting two-to-three calls per week now from companies dealing with someone struggling with suicidal thoughts. The upside of it is you’re seeing employees and companies getting to the point where they are willing to discuss the problem of suicide at work.”
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