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Traumatic and Fatal Injuries in Workplace Accidents

October 26, 2020

According to the most recent data published on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of October 26, 2020, there was a 2% increase in the total number of on-the-job fatalities. The "Fatal Work Injury Rate remained unchanged at approximately three deaths per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers. Over the past several years, the number of fatal workplace accidents in the United States is about 5,000 deaths.   It's important to note that depending on the state where the injury occurred and the specific facts of an incident, the analysis of what is and what is not a workplace incident may change.  

The data is collected by the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), which collects and maintains a detailed database of information on workers who lost their lives while at work due to a traumatic injury. The CFOI provides details about how it defines work relationships and traumatic injuries on its website, and the web page was recently updated on October 8, 2020.

The CFOI defines a traumatic injury as any injury or harm to the body that was caused by 

  • acute heat or electrical energy exposure; 
  • impact from a fall or collision; 
  • or harm caused by the lack of essentials such as oxygen or heat.

The traumatic injuries highlighted by the CFOI are:

  • acute poisonings that occurred during short-term toxic exposure limited to the worker's shift, 
  • asphyxiation,
  • open wounds, 
  • intracranial and internal injuries, 
  • heatstroke, 
  • homicides,
  • hypothermia, 
  • suicides, and
  • work injuries listed as underlying or contributory causes of death.

The CFOI excludes strokes and heart attacks since the CFOI considers these as illnesses unless "a traumatic injury contributed to the death."  

According to the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), there are four primary locations where workplace accidents occur. 

Employer Housing - In some circumstances, employers will provide workers with housing. To determine if the injury or fatality is considered a "workplace" accident, the type of housing provided by the employer must be defined as "employer required housing." When housing is required by the employer, injuries or fatalities at employer housing is generally considered a workplace accident. If the housing is not required by simply provided or subsidized, the accident is not considered a workplace accident unless there is an additional link to work that may be considered.

Home Offices - If a worker is injured or killed at his or her house, he or she would have to be performing a work-specific task at the time of their injury or death to be considered a workplace accident in many instances. This is because workers who work from home will spend a significant amount of time at their home while not in "work status."  

Farms, Hobby Farms, and Farm Houses - Farmers are different among other types of workers because farmers generally live at their "place of employment." In some cases, the farm workers will also reside at the farm. Therefore, to determine if the accident is a workplace accident or not, there must be a determination as to whether the farmer was injured or killed while functioning in a homeowner capacity or in a workplace capacity. If the farmer or farm worker was injured or killed while in a farm building or field, the CFOI generally clarifies this as a workplace accident. If the farmer was in the farmhouse residence at the time of the accident or was tending to  residential property, the accident would likely not be considered a workplace accident in most cases. If the worker's farm is used specifically for recreational use, such as a hobby farm, then accidents on that farm would likely not be considered a workplace accident according to the CFOI.

Starts on Premises, Ends Off of Premises - Some workplace accidents may begin at the workplace but happen offsite. The CFOI considers the accident a work accident if the worker, through a sequence of events, begins at the workplace and then continues to operate in a work capacity up to the moment of the accident and there was no break in the work sequence. For example, the worker arrives at work and takes a work truck to an offsite worksite and is involved in an accident. However, when a worker is traveling to work to begin the work day and is involved in an accident, this is generally not considered a work accident.

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All information provided by our blogs is general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Consult a Montlick attorney for details about your unique situation.