Minnesota employees should be concerned that the number of workers killed while on the job around the country increased by an alarming 7 percent to 5,190 in 2016 according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That figure makes 2016 the deadliest year for American workers since 2008, and the BLS reports that workplace fatalities have now increased for three consecutive years. Transportation accidents and workplace violence remain the two most common causes, accounting for 40 and 23 percent of the fatalities respectively.

However, safety advocates and regulators may be most concerned by the sharp increase in opioid use by workers. The number of overdose deaths among workers surged by 32 percent in 2016 and has risen by at least 25 percent every year since 2012. A senior official with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said that the figures would serve as a reminder that far more can be done to make workplaces safer and protect American workers.

The increase in workplace fatalities was especially pronounced in the hospitality and leisure sector. Deaths in the sector as a whole increased by 32 percent to an all-time high of 298 in 2016, which was largely due to a 40 percent rise in fatalities among workers employed in bars, restaurants and similar establishments. The death toll was also high among foreign-born workers who accounted for one in five workplace deaths.

In addition to providing financial assistance to those who suffer workplace injuries, the Minnesota workers’ compensation program offers benefits to the dependent family members of workers who were killed while on the job. However, dealing with the application process can be a frustrating and draining experience for family members who are struggling to come to terms with their loss. Attorneys with experience in this area could seek to ease their burden by helping them with their applications and advocating on their behalf if their claims are contested or denied.