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Fatal chemical inhalations in the workplace up in 2017

October 24, 2019

In 2017, 41 U.S. workers died on the job after a single episode of inhaling chemicals and chemical products—7 more fatal injuries than in 2016. This number ranged between 33 and 55 fatal injuries each year from 2011 to 2017, with a total of 297 fatalities across the 7-year span.

Number of fatal work injuries from exposure to chemicals and chemical products in a single inhalation episode, 2011–17
Year Number of fatal work injuries

2011

52

2012

33

2013

39

2014

55

2015

43

2016

34

2017

41

Inhaling carbon monoxide led to the most fatalities during this time period (116 fatal injuries) followed by inhaling hydrogen sulfide (46 fatal injuries).

Number of fatal work injuries in a single inhalation episode by chemical or chemical product, 2011–17
Chemical or chemical product Not confined space
or unknown
Confined space Total

Carbon monoxide

95 21 116

Hydrogen sulfide

10 36 46

Coal, natural gas, petroleum fuels and products

8 3 11

Methane gas

- 9 9

Dichloromethane

5 3 8

Solvents, degreasers

2 5 7

Sewer gas

1 6 7

Plastics, resins

5 1 6

Methanol

5 - 5

Toluene

5 - 5

Cleaning and polishing agents

5 - 5

Chlorine, chlorine bleach

4 - 4

Acids and alkalies

4 - 4

Manure gas

1 3 4

Note: Dash means no data were reported or data do not meet publication standards.

Of the fatal single episode inhalations of chemicals and chemical products from 2011 through 2017, 37 percent occurred in a confined space (110 fatal injuries). All fatal single inhalations of methane gas involved a confined space (9 fatal injuries).

Other chemicals and chemical products that led to fatal injury after a single inhalation in spaces that were confined and not confined were toluene (5 fatalities), solvents and degreasers (7 fatalities), dichloromethane (8 fatalities), and coal, natural gas, petroleum fuels and products (11 fatalities).

These data are from the Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities program and include workers in the private sector and government. To learn more, see "National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2017." We also have more charts on fatal work injuries. For more on related Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations, visit "Chemical Hazards and Toxic Substances" and "Confined Spaces."

SUGGESTED CITATION

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Fatal chemical inhalations in the workplace up in 2017 on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2019/fatal-chemical-inhalations-in-the-workplace-up-in-2017.htm (visited December 10, 2019).

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