Foodservice workplace deaths soar, study finds

The number of foodservice and bar employees killed on the job jumped by 40% last year, one of the sharpest increases among all professions, according to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The increase was particularly dramatic for kitchen workers and servers, with a rise of 64%, the absolute highest among all the trades that were gauged, BLS reported.

However, the absolute numbers remained relatively low for an industry employing more than 11 million people, and one whose workforce has been growing by leaps and bounds. BLS found in its annual census of workplace fatalities that 165 foodservice and bar employees were killed while working in 2016, compared with 118 the year earlier.

The leading cause of deaths for kitchen workers and servers was homicide, which took the lives of 21 staffers. Nineteen of the murders were committed with a firearm, according to the statistics.

Another three took their own lives at their place of employment. 

Overall, BLS noted, fatal workplace incidents increased 7% in 2016, pushing the total past the 5,000 mark for the first time, to 5,190 deaths. The most common causes were traffic accidents, which accounted for 40% of the casualties, followed by violence, at 23%.

The canvass of businesses revealed that workplace drug overdoses continue to soar, climbing 32% in 2016 alone. BLS noted that overdose deaths have risen by at least 25% in each of the last five years.

Four of the on-the-job foodservice deaths were caused by a drug or alcohol overdoes, according to stats made available to Restaurant Business by BLS.

“As President Trump recognized by declaring opioid abuse a Nationwide Public Health Emergency, the nation’s opioid crisis is impacting Americans every day at home and, as this data demonstrates, increasingly on the job," Loren Sweatt, deputy assistant secretary for the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, said in a statement.

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