Most people don’t go into work expecting to die. But every day more than 14 workers, on average, don’t make it home alive.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2017, 5,147 workers died on the job, at a rate of 3.5 deaths per 100,000 workers. This number is down from last year but the number of workplace deaths has grown since 2009. The most common causes of fatal workplace injuries are falls, roadway accidents, violence by others and exposure to harmful substances.
The rate of worker deaths varies by state. The most dangerous state, Alaska, had a worker death rate almost three times the national average at 10.2 deaths per 100,000 workers. Other deadly states include North Dakota (10.1) and Wyoming (7.7). In comparison, the three least deadly states for workers, also based on worker deaths per 100,000 workers, were New Hampshire (1.6), New Jersey (1.6) and Rhode Island (1.6).
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Here are the 10 states with the highest fatality rates in the country, based on 2017 data.
6.1 deaths per 100,000 workers 76 workplace deaths per year
6.2 deaths per 100,000 workers 90 workplace deaths per year
6.3 deaths per 100,000 workers 117 workplace deaths per year
6.9 deaths per 100,000 workers 32 workplace deaths per year
7 deaths per 100,000 workers 22 workplace deaths per year
5. South Dakota
7.3 deaths per 100,000 workers 30 workplace deaths per year
4. West Virginia
7.4 deaths per 100,000 workers 51 workplace deaths per year
7.7 deaths per 100,000 workers 20 workplace deaths per year
2. North Dakota
10.1 deaths per 100,000 workers 38 workplace deaths per year
10.2 deaths per 100,000 workers 33 workplace deaths per year
Total number of workplace deaths by state
While Texas, New York and California had the highest number of workplace deaths in 2017, they also had the highest number of workers. Alaska has a much smaller working population, but the chances of a worker dying are the highest in the country. We compared BLS data from 2016 to 2017 and found while worker deaths fell nationwide, some states experienced an increase in worker deaths over the year.
For example, Louisiana had 95 worker deaths in 2016. In 2017, they had 117. Vermont’s number of worker deaths more than doubled, from 10 in 2016 to 22 in 2017.
Here’s a look at the number of worker deaths in each state in 2016 and 2017.
Worker death rates also varied by industry — states who rely on industries such as oil drilling and construction are more likely to have higher rates of worker deaths. The agriculture, forestry and hunting industry tops the list with a rate of 23 worker deaths per 100,000 workers — more than six times the national rate. Here are the five most dangerous industries to work in, based on rate of fatal work industries.
If you work in a dangerous industry, it’s important to know your rights if you’re injured on the job. Workers' compensation covers income and medical care if you become injured or ill because of your job.
Most states also require employers to pay death benefits and burial expenses to dependents of employees who died as a direct result of a workplace incident. But these benefits are not a substitute for a life insurance policy. Learn what life insurance covers here.
Check out our state-by-state guide to workers’ compensation to learn more about partial and permanent disability benefits based on where you work.
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