Falls and Struck By Incidents Lead Work-Related Deaths
By Dolores Quesenberry, Communications Director
Falls and struck-by incidents continue to cause the largest number of work-related deaths statewide based on preliminary information released Jan. 30 by the state Department of Labor. Struck-by incidents accounted for the most work-related deaths with 19, while falls accounted for 12 deaths. The department’s Occupational Safety and Health Division inspected 48 work-related deaths last year. “Year after year, we see falls and struck-by incidents take the lives of too many workers,” Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry said. “Falls and struck-bys are especially troubling because we know nearly all these types of workplace accidents can be prevented when proper safety training is coupled with the proper use of personal protective equipment. Seven of last year’s construction deaths involved a fall from a roof. We never lose sight of the fact that these are human lives lost at work, and I take each one personally. These were someone’s husband or wife, mother or father, brother or sister, son or daughter, and in some cases grandparent. They were best friends and co-workers at an average age of 42 years old.” The OSH Division tracks work-related deaths that fall within its jurisdictional authority so it can pinpoint where fatalities are occurring and place special emphasis on counties or regions where deaths on the job are happening. By tracking fatalities in real time, the department can also notify particular industries of any concerning patterns or trends identified and issue hazard alerts to warn industry. “Through years of tracking workplace deaths, we have identified four areas known as the ‘Big Four’ that employers and employees should be mindful of in the workplace,” said Kevin Beauregard, director of the Occupational Safety and Health Division. “Falls, struck-bys, caught-in/ between incidents and electrocutions make up the Big Four and generally account for 80 percent or more of work-related deaths in construction and general industry.” The OSH Division also partners with businesses and organizations that represent some of the most hazardous industries through partnerships and alliances to heighten industry awareness and assist with education and training. While fatalities continue to fluctuate, North Carolina’s injury and illness rate has steadily declined since 2001 and dropped to an all-time low of 2.6 per 100 full-time workers in 2015. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles the injury and illness rate data. Based on the most recent data released by the BLS, North Carolina is one of the nation’s top 10 safest states in which to work with a rate statistically lower than the national rate of 3.0. The construction industry continues to be the most hazardous industry in the state with 19 work-related deaths in 2016, seven more than in 2015. The manufacturing industry had the second highest number of work-related deaths with nine in 2016, a decrease from 11 in 2015. The seven fatalities in the services industry was an increase from fi ve in the previous year. In addition, agriculture, forestry and fishing decreased from eight fatalities in 2015 to fi ve in 2016. There were also four fatalities in the transportation and public utility industry, an increase from one in 2015. Government stayed the same at two fatalities. The wholesale trade industry increased from one fatality in 2015 to two in 2016. There were no work-related fatalities in the retail trade industry or the finance, insurance and real estate industry. There were no work-related fatalities in 77 of North Carolina’s 100 counties. Mecklenburg County led with 12 fatalities. Guilford and Rowan experienced four each. Cumberland and Wake experienced three fatalities each. Catawba, Forsyth, Gaston and Robeson experienced two fatalities each. Fourteen counties experienced one fatality. Whites accounted for 27 of the 48 work-related fatalities. Blacks accounted for 10 and Hispanics for nine. There were two Asians. Men accounted for 44 of the 48 deaths. Women accounted for four workplace deaths. The state figures exclude certain fatalities that fall outside its jurisdictional authority. These include traffic accidents, which account for nearly half of all work-related deaths, as well as homicides and suicides that are investigated by law enforcement agencies. The count also excludes fatalities investigated by federal OSHA and other exemptions in which the department does not have the authority to investigate, such as on farms with 10 or fewer employees. Federal figures compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with cooperation of NCDOL, include all work-related fatalities. The federal figures for 2015, the latest figures available, can be found on the BLS website at http://www.bls.gov/regions/southeast/news-release/fatalworkinjuries_northcarolina.htm. Data for 2016 will be available in December. Businesses may call 1-800-NC-LABOR to learn more about free safety training opportunities provided by NCDOL or visit http://www.nclabor.com.