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Nearly 4 million work-related injuries and illnesses are reported each year in the United States. Due to limitations in the current injury reporting system and widespread underreporting of workplace injuries, this number significantly understates the magnitude of the problem, with the true rate 20–60% higher.

Each year more than 5000 workers are killed on the job in the United States. Transportation incidents account for the largest number of these deaths. Significantly elevated rates are seen among agricultural, forestry, and construction industry workers, and among high-risk occupations such as roofers.

Violence is the second most common fatal event. One-sixth of fatal occupational injuries are violence-related, including homicides and suicides at work.

Each day, 150 workers die from hazardous working conditions. High fatality rates are reported from exposure to harmful substances or environments, fires, and explosions.

Overdoses from the nonmedical use of drugs or alcohol while on the job are increasing steadily. Drug-related deaths and suicides are important contributors to the long-term excess mortality of injured workers.

An estimated 50,000–60,000 workers die from preventable occupational diseases each year, a tragic number considering the use of safer substitutes and engineering controls that can reduce the risk.

Occupational injuries and deaths in the United States cost an estimated $250–$360 billion a year. Businesses pay between $180 billion and $360 billion annually in direct and indirect (overtime, training, and lost productivity) costs for workers’ compensation benefits. The human costs associated with occupational injuries and illnesses are staggering. The medical and indirect costs of occupational injuries and illnesses are at least as large as the cost of cancer. Moreover, lost-time occupational injuries are associated with a substantially elevated mortality hazard.

The focus on prevention and enforcement of health and safety programs often hinges on the political climate and government policies toward worker safety and health. Work-related injuries and illnesses can be prevented with organized labor advocating for strong government policies for worker safety and health, strengthening enforcement, issuing key safety and health standards, and improving antiretaliation protections and other rights for workers. With moves toward populist politics, these gains are threatened. Across the globe, there are deregulatory agendas to repeal and delay worker safety and other rules and propose cuts in budgets for public health and enforcement, and the elimination of worker safety and health training and other programs.


The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHAct) ensures “every working man and woman in the United States safe and healthful working conditions.” This act created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

The OSHAct created the OSHA to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and ...

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