Compared to the general population, workers can be more vulnerable to animal-related injuries and illnesses. Injuries and illnesses to workers from animal encounters may result from, but not limited to, bites, stings, trampling, crushing, puncturing, throwing, or dragging. Some occupations require frequent contact with animals; these may include animal care workers (e.g., veterinarians, veterinary technicians), animal groomers, animal trainers, pet store workers, animal shelter and kennel workers, and farmers. Other occupations pose risks to workers due to their outdoor activities (e.g., postal and construction workers, loggers), placing them in proximity to domestic and farm animals or wildlife such as reptiles (e.g., snakes) and arthropods (e.g., insects, ticks).
To characterize the occurrence of animal-related occupational injuries in the U.S., this evaluation provides updated (2011-2014) estimates of work-related fatal and non-fatal injuries and illnesses from animal sources. The primary source of these injuries was the animal responsible for the injury or illness, and, when a secondary source was reported, the secondary source was a weapon, object (e.g., equipment), or substance contributing to the injury or illness.
Annual counts of fatal and non-fatal injuries and illnesses due to animals were retrieved for all employer ownerships (e.g., private) from the U.S. Department of Labor’s (US DOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) and their Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII), respectively. For CFOI, information about work-related fatalities was collected from all states and territories in the U.S. through a federal and state partnership. For SOII, non-fatal occupational injuries and illnesses information (when at least one day of work was missed) was gathered from a robust national sample with widespread state participation; 41-42 states participated between 2011-2014 (US DOL(a), 2017).
Annual counts of injuries and illnesses were then translated to economic losses using 2014 National Safety Council (NSC) cost estimates. Cost estimates included wage/productivity losses, medical expenses, and administrative expenses (NSC, 2014). According to the NSC, average costs for a workplace fatality and a non-fatal injury, which is severe enough to miss work for at least one day, were $1M and $39 000, respectively (NSC, 2014).
Fatal Injuries From Animals
Between 2011 and 2014, there were a total of 222 work-related fatalities due to animal sources in the U.S. (total cost of $222M), averaging 48 fatalities per year (range: 38-56). Cattle and other bovines were the leading animal source of fatal work injuries (36%), followed by horses and other equines (31%) (similar trends were found by Drudi et al., 2000 for an earlier period between 1992 and 1997). Male workers were most affected (90% for fatal injuries and 55% for non-fatal injuries and illnesses). And, animal-related fatal injuries tended to affect older (55 years or greater) workers more often, whereas, younger (25-34 years) workers had more non-fatal injuries and illnesses.
Among fatalities with available event or exposure information, 94 workers were struck by an animal (35 were trampled by or stepped on, 17 were gored or rammed, and 14 were kicked), 49 died of bites and stings, and 41 were due to transportation incidents (36 of these incidents involved contact with horses and other equines). By specific worker activities at the time of injury, all workers involved in personal care and service activities (n=21) died of injuries from horses and equines and when workers were engaged in “constructing, repairing, cleaning” activities (n=18), 94% of these fatalities were due to insects, arachnids, mites.
Non-fatal Injuries And Illnesses From Animals
For non-fatal injuries and illnesses, during this same 4-year period, 71 460 work-related injuries and illnesses were reported from animal sources (total cost of $2.8B), averaging 16 563 injuries per year (range: 16 080 – 17 090). Annual incidence rates ranged between 1.5 and 1.6 injuries and illnesses for every 10 000 full-time workers and annual median days missed from work were between 3 to 4 days when only one source of the injury was identified. For three years (2011, 2013, and 2014), the annual median days away from work more than doubled when another source contributing to the injury or illness was reported (i.e., secondary source).
By specific animals contributing to non-fatal injuries and illness, such as among mammals (largest contributor of injuries: 58%), dogs, canines—domestic were responsible for 31% of injuries and among invertebrates, insects, arachnids, mites were identified as contributing to the most (38%). For non-fatal injuries and illnesses involving transportation (n=800), all were due to horses and other equines. Injuries for workers missing 31 days or more of work were most frequently due to dogs, canines—domestic (n=2 890), followed by farm animals (includes cattle and other bovines, horses and other equines, and swine and other porcines) (n=2 730) and insects, arachnids, mites (n=1 060).
Overall, these injuries comprised 1.2% of total fatalities and 1.5% of total non-fatal injuries and illnesses from all sources of injuries that took place between 2011 and 2014 (US DOL(b), 2017; US DOL(c), 2017) [similar proportions were found for a previous 6-year period during 1992-1997 (Drudi, 2000)]. For fatal injuries, these workers were most frequently in management; farming, fishing, and forestry; and personal care and service occupations, whereas, workers with non-fatal injuries and illnesses were most frequently in service occupations.
This evaluation provides insights on specific animals contributing to work-related injuries in the U.S. and the potential for more severe injuries (i.e., greater median days away from work) when additional sources of injury (e.g., equipment) are reported, besides the primary animal source. Findings from this evaluation offer evidence for the need of additional education targeting workers in particular industries and attention for specific hazards by worker activity.
- Drudi D. Are animals occupational hazards? Compensation and Working Conditions. 2000;Fall:15–22.
- NSC (National Safety Council). Estimating the costs of unintentional injuries, 2014. Accessed on January 16, 2018. Available at .
- US DOL(a) (United States Department of Labor). Bureau of Labor Statistics. State occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. Last updated January 4, 2018. Accessed January 16, 2018. Available at http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshstate.htm.
- US DOL(b) (United States Department of Labor). Bureau of Labor Statistics. Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (2011 forward) data tool. Accessed on February 20, 2017. Available at: http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/dsrv?fw.
- US DOL(c) (United States Department of Labor). Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nonfatal cases involving days away from work: selected characteristics (2011 forward) data tool. Accessed on February 20, 2017. Available at: http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/dsrv?cs.
These findings are described in the article entitled Fatal and non-fatal animal-related injuries and illnesses to workers, United States, 2011-2014, published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. This work was led by Nirmalla Barros and Ricky Langley from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.