A new AFL-CIO analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 4,693 workers were killed on the job in 2011, an average of 13 workers every day. That’s more than the number of pedestrians struck and killed by cars every year and more than the lives lost during the entire Iraq War. This is the third year that the fatality rate for workers has been unchanged after years of decline.
Another estimated 50,000 died from diseases contracted on the job. Overall, workers reported 6.8 million job-related injuries and illnesses.
The report also notes that the cost of injuries and illnesses that occur on the job is huge. One study put the figure at $250 billion annually due to medical costs and the loss in productivity, more than the cost of cancer.
These numbers come after a fertilizer plant in West, Texas exploded, killing 15 and injuring hundreds. The plant hadn’t been inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the agency tasked with ensuring workplace safety, since 1985. In fact, the Government Accountability Office recently found that the average workplace only gets a visit from OSHA inspectors every 99 years.
That number may get even worse, as OSHA can expect a big cut from sequestration. It will have to slash its budget by 8.2 percent, which could mean 1,200 fewer workplace inspections. Meanwhile, Republican budgets have sought to reduce its budget by $99 million and cut other workplace protection agencies.