June 25, 2024

In the US, homicides on the job have become more and more of a hazard in recent years. Nearly 20 American workers were shot to death at their workplaces from the beginning of this year until June, according to data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In January alone, seven immigrant farm workers were fatally shot by a former employee in California, and a 26-year-old car wash employee in Texas was shot by his coworker.

Comprehensive data on workplace deaths in 2023 won’t be released until the end of next year, but a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) published Tuesday (Dec. 19) shows that violent worker fatalities resulting from attacks by people or animals jumped 12% from 2021 to 2022. And most of them were homicides.

Nearly 5,500 US workplace deaths were reported in 2022. Black and Latinx workers saw fatality rates tick up again last year. Black Americans, in particular, were overrepresented among the victims of violent deaths. These workers accounted for 23% of all such deaths, even though they made up only 13% of the labor force. Even more jarring, 33% of reported workplace homicide victims were Black.

A disproportionate number of women also died by homicide. While only 8% of all workplace deaths were women, they accounted for 15% of deliberate killings.

Most of the homicide victims were killed while waiting on customers, the BLS noted.

More deadly details, by the digits

96 minutes: How long it takes for the US to tally at least one death on the job

524: Deaths by homicide among American workers in 2022

525: Unintentional overdoses that led to US deaths in 2022, a 13% increase from 2021. Deaths caused by overdoses have been on the rise since 2012

1,369: US deaths caused by roadway incidents

A note on the numbers

Because of regulations surrounding which worker deaths count as “work-related,” the number of fatalities reported by the BLS is likely an underestimate. Illnesses and injuries are also grossly underreported by private industry employers. While the agency reported 2.8 million injuries and illnesses in 2022, the true number is probably between 5 million and 8 million every year, according to the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). Still, the BLS report is useful for understanding patterns in worker deaths.

Historically, Black and Latinx employees have been more likely to die on the job than their white counterparts, with farming, construction, and transportation consistently ranking as the deadliest industries. Men are also much likelier to die on the job than women.

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