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May 20, 2014
AFL-CIO report details national fatality trends

For the 23rd year, the AFL-CIO has produced a report on the state of safety and health protections for America’s workers. Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect tallies fatalities, injuries, and illnesses for 2012. Find out which state got the dubious distinction of being “exceptionally dangerous and deadly.”

According to the AFL-CIO, 4,628 workers were killed on the job and an estimated 50,000 died from occupational diseases, resulting in a loss of 150 workers each day. While 3.8 million work-related injuries and illnesses were reported, the report says many injuries went unreported and that the true toll is likely two to three times greater—between 7.6 million and 11.4 million injuries a year. The job fatality rate has been relatively stable for the past several years—3.4 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2012. 

The highest rate of fatalities was in North Dakota (17.7 per 100,000 workers) followed by Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and West Virginia. The lowest rates were reported in Massachusetts, followed by Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Washington.

“North Dakota stands out as an exceptionally dangerous and deadly place to work,” according to the report. The job fatality rate there is more than five times the national average; the rate more than doubled from 7.0 in 2007. That translated to an increase in fatalities from 25 to 65.

Which workers are most at risk of dying on the job?

The AFL-CIO data supports other findings that Latino workers continue to be at risk of job fatality, with a rate of 3.7 deaths per 100,000 workers. There were 748 Latino workers killed at work in 2012 and 75 percent of those were workers born outside the U.S. The good news is that according to the AFL-CIO, the death rate among Latino workers has dropped by 38 percent since 2001.

The report also looked at OSHA effectiveness and noted that the current level of federal and state OSHA inspectors provides one inspector for every 68,847 workers. And while penalties have increased under the Obama administration, the AFL-CIO believes they are still too low to deter violations. The document cites an average penalty for a serious violation in FY 2013 of $1,895 for federal OSHA and $1,011 for state plans.

Despite these sobering statistics, Death on the Job concludes that workplaces are much safer today than when the OSH Act was passed in 1970.

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