14 American workers die on the job every day

by: Chris Bowers

Tue Apr 06, 2010 at 10:28

The 25 dead coal miners, and 4 still missing, in West Virginia is shocking and horrible.  What is perhaps more shocking is that 29 workers dying on the job in one day is actually only about twice the daily average in America, and that about 50 coal miners in China die on the job every week:

China says 83,196 people lost their lives in work-related incidents last year.

China's State Administration of Work Safety reported 380,000 incidents in the workplace that caused death or injury.

How does that stack up compared to the U.S.? To put the situation into perspective, the U.S. has a workforce of 155 million, while China has over five times that amount, at about 801 million.

The U.S. reported 5,071 worker deaths in 2008.

So the number of workplace fatalities in China is 16 times that of those in the U.S.

Approximately 14 workers die per day in the U.S. compared to 228 in China.

Coal mining accounted for 2,631 deaths last year in China - 7 deaths per day.

In fact, even as we speak, China is searching for 33 trapped coal miners, too.

For additional context, on the 5,071 worker deaths in 2008, 5,424 Americans have died in Iraq and Afghanistan total.

There are human costs to our worker safety, energy and trade policies.  Ongoing stories about trapped coal miners in China and West Virginia bring them into the public light, but they happen every day.

update: New figures show the daily fatality rate to be 16.

Chris Bowers :: 14 American workers die on the job every day

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Yes, not to mention (4.00 / 3)
some 11,000 workplace injuries and illnesses a day.

Incidentally, there were just hearings on Lynn Woolsey's bill to strengthen OSHA:

Safety and health champions in Congress have introduced legislation-The Protecting America's Workers Act (H.R. 2067, S. 1580)-that would address major weaknesses in the OSH Act and provide workers stronger job safety rights and protections.  The legislation:

Extends the OSH Act and existing job safety protections to all state and local public employees, federal workers and millions of other workers who currently have no OSHA coverage or only limited protection.

Increases OSHA penalties for job safety violations and establishes mandatory minimum penalties for violations resulting in worker deaths, so fines are more than a slap on the wrist.  Criminal violations of the OSH Act would be made a felony, instead of a misdemeanor, and be expanded to cover cases that involve serious bodily injuries, not just worker deaths.  

Enhances anti-discrimination protections for workers who raise job safety concerns and report job injuries.   It provides workers the right to pursue their case if OSHA fails to act in a timely fashion and writes into the law a worker's right to refuse unsafe work.  The bill makes clear that employers cannot retaliate against a worker for reporting a job injury or illness and prohibits any employer policies or practices that discourage or discriminate against workers for reporting injuries and illnesses.

Expands workers' and union rights in OSHA inspections and enforcement cases.  The bill requires that workers be paid for the time spent participating in OSHA inspections.  It provides workers and unions the right to contest the classification of violations and proposed penalties and to object to settlements that are inadequate.

Provides victims of job injuries and illnesses and family members the right to be heard in OSHA investigations.


I believe Ted Kennedy introduced the bill in the Senate, but I don't know what's happening with it.

Nothing yet (4.00 / 2)
The bills are HR 2067 and S 1580.

No movement yet  on S 1580 since it was referred to HELP last May.

I can't see these being leadership or WH priorities: the two operative titles of S 1580 are headed 'Increasing Protection for Whistle Blowers' and 'Increased Penalties for Violators'. Can't see Harry or any other Dem senator even thinking of trying for cloture on this - and I think the Parliamentarian may balk on reconciliation this time around!

To judge from  Wiki, so far as one can, regulatory capture of OSHA is pretty much complete - apparently, even under Carter, its role was moved away from industrial accidents.

Hollowing out regulators has been the prime MO for the Interests and their pol friends ever since the ICC was formed - levels of credulity, laziness and ignorance amongst voters are more than adequate to make sure they're seldom disturbed.  

[ Parent ]
Forty years after OSHA introduced ... (4.00 / 2)
...we're still waiting for the matters in your comment to be addressed. Incrementalism has just a few f'n drawbacks.

[ Parent ]
Horrible! (0.00 / 1)
This is really horrible, it's happening even in presence of legal responsibilities of companies. Legal steps are obviously taken every where but there always remains an uncertainty and risks.
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Would they happen less frequently if safety standards (4.00 / 1)
were more vigorously enforced.

The explosion rocked Massey Energy Co.'s sprawling Upper Big Branch mine, about 30 miles south of Charleston, which has a history of violations for not properly ventilating the highly combustible methane, safety officials said.

we have it at 16 (4.00 / 4)
I'm working with Brave New Films on a worker safety campaign, and we calculate it at 16 deaths per day.  We even have the authority of an accompanying website and video!

The Protecting America's Workers Act is really important worker safety legislation to update laws that haven't changed in over 30 years.  While mine safety is regulated outside of OSHA, the effect of a strong occupational safety and health department would be strong throughout all sectors.  

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What would you expect if it were completely random? (0.00 / 0)
As in, you're as likely to die on the job as you are to die not on the job?  

Any estimate that I generate based on length of life or average overall death rates comes out WAY high.  

Some stats (4.00 / 1)
The two most dangerous occupations are logger and airplane pilot (mostly small planes).  Fishing is also a very dangerous occupation.

The largest number of occupational deaths come from driving.  This effects many occupations including truck drivers, cabbies, and policemen.

Construction is a dangerous job.  Of course, in this economy, construction jobs have fallen dramatically.

More miners are killed on the job each year than policeman.  In 2008 (the last year for data), 175 miners were killed on the job.  In 2009, 126 police officers were killed on the job.  Only 32 of those police officers were killed by gunfire.

Lately television seems to be featuring dangerous jobs with logging and Alaska fishing prominently featured.  Still, the danger of police work is constantly overplayed.  I personally associate bagpipes with the funerals of NY City police and fire rather than with Scotland because of the saturation TV coverage over many decades.

The role of employers in occupational illness and death is considerable.  Sometimes the cause is ignorance (ship workers in WW II and asbestos).  Sometimes the cause is sloppy procedures.  Sometimes the cause is greed.

Re: Asbestos. True that they didn't ... (0.00 / 0)
...know in World War II. But plenty of companies knew AFTER World War II that they were putting workers at risk. And they kept doing so, and then fought the lawsuits with we-didn't-know until their own records proved their lies.

[ Parent ]
Johns Manville (0.00 / 0)
Johns Manville kept going into a series of bankruptcies designed to prevent pay outs for asbestos law suits for years during the 60s.  Somehow the bankruptcies never seemed to put a crimp in the lifestyle of Tommy Manville, a prominent playboy of that era.

The WW II cases were widespread and due to ignorance.  You are right about later asbestos risks.

So is Massey a company operating in a dangerous industry or are they simply greedy?  At least some of the evidence (large fines, prior accidents)points to greed.

[ Parent ]
When you say 14 workers die every day (0.00 / 0)
are these 14 workers dying on the job, for reasons due to their work, or are they like dying in a car crash somewhere away from work?

Mostly on the job (0.00 / 0)
Driving accounts for about 900 work-related deaths per year but many of those (truckers, police) are part of doing the job.

The data is a little vague but it is pretty clear that these are not for the most part commuting accidents.

[ Parent ]

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