Cal/OSHA Shows Concern After Increase in Work-Related Fatalities
On December 18, 2019, Cal/OSHA issued a news release outlining California’s fatal workplace injury data for 2018. Each year California, in conjunction with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, conducts a Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (“CFOI”). Cal/OSHA uses the data from the CFOI to help inform its enforcement and education priorities.
In 2018, California saw an increase in the total amount of work-related fatalities as the number of such deaths jumped from 376 in 2017 to 422 in 2018. In response to the increase, Cal/OSHA Chief Douglas Parker stated that
An increase in workplace fatalities is a serious concern for Cal/OSHA. We are analyzing the data to bolster and direct our enforcement and education efforts.
But, no concrete plans to increase enforcement or education efforts have been announced by the agency.
Of particular concern to Cal/OSHA was the percentage of work-related fatalities that involved monolingual non-English speaking workers. Specifically, the latest data showed that approximately 43% of workplace fatalities in California involved Latino workers. This is an area of concern for Cal/OSHA as their data shows that Latinos suffer fatal workplace injuries at a disproportionate rate.
Additionally, the data collected showed that a majority of workplace fatalities were the result of either transportation incidents (36.7%) or violence in the workplace (21.8%). Consequently, the occupation with the largest number of work fatalities was drivers/truck drivers with 69, followed by construction laborers with 26 work-related fatalities.
While California saw an increase in occupational fatalities in 2018, it should be noted that its Occupational Fatality Rate remained relatively unchanged at 2.3 per 100,000 workers. This was a slight increase from the 2.2 rate that California maintained from 2015 through 2017. California’s fatality rate is also well-below the national average, which was 3.5 per 100,000 workers in 2018. But, Cal/OSHA sees any increase in workplace fatalities as a reason for concern. Because of this, employers in the state, especially those in high-hazard industries, can expect to see an increase in enforcement activity from the agency.