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KIPRC, KY FACE report shows rise in occupational overdose deaths from 2019 to 2021

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LEXINGTON, KY. (April 3, 2023) — The Kentucky Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (KY FACE) program, part of the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center (KIPRC) housed in the UK College of Public Health, investigates work-related fatalities in Kentucky that were caused by an injury, including drug overdose. KY FACE recently released its annual report for 2021, which provides descriptive analysis of Kentucky occupational fatalities for the reporting year.

From 2017 to 2021, KY FACE recorded a total of 47 occupational overdose fatalities. Since 2017, the annual number of occupational overdose fatalities in Kentucky has increased by 260%, reaching its highest number ever recorded of 18 fatalities in 2021.

The highest percentage of occupational drug overdose fatalities during this time period occurred in the trade, transportation and utilities industry (38%), followed by the manufacturing industry (19%), the construction industry (19%) and the leisure and hospitality industry (11%). The remaining 13% of drug overdose fatalities took place in the professional and business services and public administration industries and were combined due to low counts.

All of the occupational overdose fatalities in the leisure and hospitality industries occurred in 2020 and 2021.

Of the 96 occupational fatalities recorded in Kentucky in 2021, drug overdose fatalities accounted for 19%, compared to 13% in 2020 and 8% in 2019. The increase in the number of occupational overdose fatalities in 2021 was primarily seen in the trade, transportation, and utilities industry and in the leisure and hospitality industry. Both industries experienced a notable jump in the number of fatal overdoses when compared to previous years and together accounted for 67% of occupational drug overdose fatalities in 2021.

In 2021, nearly 40% of occupational overdose fatalities in Kentucky occurred in Jefferson County. Comparatively, there were eight occupational overdose fatalities in Jefferson County in the entire four-year period from 2017 to 2020.

Data presented in this article are derived from the KY FACE database, which collects occupational fatality data from multiple sources, including but not limited to death certificates, OSHA-36 forms, Mine Safety and Health Administration Fatalgrams, newspaper clippings, workers’ compensation forms, Kentucky State Police Crash Data, coroner reports, and toxicology reports.

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