Workers Memorial Day


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Workers Memorial Day, April 28, was established to recognize workers who died or suffered from exposures to hazards at work. It also encourages us to think of ways in which we all can help to achieve the goal of safer and healthier workplaces.

In 2016, work-related injuries claimed the lives of 5,190 U.S. workers.  The fatal injury rate for 2016 (3.6 per 100 full time equivalent workers) rose for the third consecutive year, and was the highest since 20102.  Although deaths resulting from work-related injuries are captured by surveillance systems, most deaths resulting from work-related illness are not. In 2007, an estimated 53,445 persons died from work-related illness3. In 2016, employers reported approximately 2.9 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses to private industry workers 4

 Occupational injuries and illnesses have broad social and economic impacts on workers and their families, on employers, and on society as a whole. There are several ways to estimate those consequences, such as methods that focus on medical costs, productivity losses, health-related quality of life losses, or risk-money tradeoffs that consider pain and suffering. Based on methods that focus on medical costs and productivity losses, the societal cost of work-related fatalities, injuries, and illnesses was estimated at $250 billion in 20074. Methods that include consideration of pain and suffering would result in a higher estimated societal cost5.

NIOSH is working to better describe the burden of fatalities, injuries, and illnesses suffered by workers; learn more about the NIOSH framework for identifying research priorities.

While significant progress has occurred since the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, much more remains to be made. Even as we continue efforts to eliminate the legacy hazards of the 20th Century, we are also called to address the emerging challenges of the 21st Century economy.

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Workers Memorial Day

Each year, NIOSH collaborates with the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly (MMWR) report to publish an edition of MMWR that features some of the newest data, case reports, and other findings from NIOSH surveillance and research activities. The reports published in MMWR serve to inform the medical and public health community about new and existing threats to workers’ health. New data on fatal falls overboard in the fishing industry, one of the nation’s most hazardous industries, are reported in this year’s Workers Memorial Day issue of MMWR. Since 1991, the CDC-NIOSH Western States Division (WSD) has studies fishing safety and develops interventions to reduce the incidence of injuries and fatalities among the nation’s fishermen. More information about commercial fishing safety.


  1. Workers Memorial Day was established in 1970 by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).
  2. National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2016.
  3. Employer-reported workplace injuries and illnesses in 2016.
  4. Leigh JP. Economic burden of occupational injury and illness in the United States. Milbank Q 2011;89:728–72
  5. Haddix AC, Teutsch SM, Corso PS, eds. Prevention effectiveness: a guide to decision analysis and economic evaluation. New York, NY: Oxford University Press;2003:74.
Page last reviewed: March 28, 2018
Content source:

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Office of the Director