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Fatalities among independent workers accounted for about 12% of all workplace deaths in 2016-2017, and independent workers have a disproportionately higher share of fatalities due to falls, slips and trips, according to report released from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday.
injuries among independent workers dropped slightly between 2016 and 2017, reported the BLS, with 662 total fatal occupational industries identified among independent workers in 2016 and 613 in 2017. Prior to 2016, the BLS did not publish data specific to independent workers, which the government agency generally defined as self-employed workers who perform short-term and discreet tasks with no guarantee of future work beyond the task, and with the worker and client agreeing on the terms of the work.
Among the different occupations involving independent workers, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers reported the most fatalities in 2017 with 175 in total, followed by first-line supervisors in construction trades and extraction workers with 95, construction laborers with 79, landscaping and groundskeeping workers with 70 and tree trimmers and pruners with 68.
Economists Stephen Pegula and Matt Gunter of the BLS’ Office of Compensation and Working Conditions found that slips, trips and falls accounted for more than a quarter of workplace fatalities among injured workers in 2016 and 2017, while among all other worker categories, slips, trips and falls accounted for only 15% of fatalities. Independent workers were also more likely than other workers to die from exposure to harmful substances or environments or contact with objects and equipment. They were least likely to be killed by violence.
Independent workers who work in entertainment, performing arts or sports-related fields were also more likely to be killed than traditional workers.
Texas reported the highest number of independent worker fatalities with 82 in 2017, followed by California with 75, New York with 28, Louisiana with 27 and Florida with 26. Rhode Island, Delaware and South Dakota reported the fewest independent worker deaths with each state reporting one.
The National Labor Relations Board has returned to a previous standard for evaluating the status of independent contractors versus employees.