In January 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released some statistics that should be alarming to older workers in Minnesota. The BLS looked at the number of fatal occupational injuries between 1992 and 2017 and found that while it declined 17% overall, it actually spiked 56% among workers 55 and older. They made up 26% of all fatally injured workers in that time period with a total of 38,200 deaths.

The increase was especially high when the BLS narrowed its sight to workers 65 and older. A total of 775 such workers died in 2017 alone: the highest number ever recorded in the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, from which this data was taken, and a 66% increase from 1992.

Overall, the fatal occupational injury rate was 3.5 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers. However, the rate for workers 55 to 64 and workers 65 and older were, respectively, 4.6 and 10.3 per 100,000 FTE workers. While the BLS report did not explore the reasons for this trend, the aging U.S. population and the increasing number of older people in the labor force partially account for it. The two deadliest occupations for older workers were farming and heavy-duty truck driving. Farmers and truck drivers made up 3,217 and 3,772 of the 38,200 fatalities, respectively.

Fatal workplace injuries can form the basis for a workers’ compensation claim, and any eligible dependent can file it. A successful claim will result in the paying out of death benefits, which usually cover reasonable funeral and burial expenses, wage replacement and the cost of any medical treatments that the victim underwent before dying. Employers do have the ability to deny payment, though, so those who intend to file a claim may want a lawyer by their side.