Earlier this year, North Carolina OSHA released a report stating that job-related deaths were decreasing. In fact, the report stated there were only 35 workplace deaths in North Carolina in 2012. However, as we mentioned in our earlier blog from this year (North Carolina Workplace Deaths Lower in 2012), these statistics appeared artificially low.
The study conducted by the National Council on Occupational Safety and Health (“National COSH”) entitled “North Carolina Workers Dying for a Job,” released in 2012 states that there were at least 83 work-related deaths in 2011 but NC OSHA only reported 53 work-related deaths for that year. Why the disparity? For one, NC OSHA’s report does not account for many fatalities due to car accidents. NC OSHA’s report also doesn’t include fatalities that occur as a result of workplace violence or fatalities suffered by the self-employed.
While it’s reassuring to hear reports that work-related deaths are on the decline, this doesn’t reflect the big picture. A report from the AFL-CIO (“Death on the Job Report”) shows that workplace fatalities vary widely by state (from 12.4 fatalities per 100,000 workers in North Dakota to 1.2 fatalities per 100,000 in New Hampshire). When considering the reported work-related fatalities for your state, keep in mind that this is just a fraction of the true fatality figures.
There is, however, one common underlying trend: Hispanic workers and young workers are disproportionately at a higher risk for job fatalities. For this reason, adequate training and safety protocols are critically important. And, sadly, many of the fatalities in 2011 were largely preventable. The two top reasons for workplace fatalities in 2011 were falls from elevated heights (20%) and machinery hazards (16%). With proper safety measures, those deaths should have been avoided.