Oct 2015

Providence Workers at Risk as Death Rates Rise Among Employees

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneyPreliminary data has been released on the number of workplace fatalities over the course of 2014. The data not only shows that there were more fatalities among workers last year as compared to the prior year, but it also shows that the number of workers killed on-the-job could be approaching recent records in workplace fatalities.

A workers’ compensation lawyer knows that improving economic conditions could be a possible explanation for why more workers are dying. More people at work can automatically translate to higher rates of injuries and fatalities. Still, the economy improving should be good news for workers and shouldn’t be a justification for rising fatalities. Employers need to do everything possible to create safe worksites to avoid death tolls climbing as economic conditions improve.

Worker Death Rates are Rising Among Employees

In 2008, the last year before the financial crisis sent the economy cratering, there were 5,214 workplace fatalities. This was the last year that the number of worker deaths exceeded 5,000, according to Safety News Alert.

Since 2009, the number of fatalities each year has been below 4,700. Between 2013 and 2014, however, there was a two percent increase in the number of workers killed. In 2014, preliminary data shows 4,679 worker deaths. Bureau of Labor Statistics will have final counts of worker deaths in Spring of 2016. Over the past five years of data collection, BLS has added an average of 173 additional fatalities to the preliminary data when final data becomes available. If this trend is the same for 2014, this will put the death rate close to 5,000 and it will exceed the 4,700 annual fatality rate occurring between 2009 and 2013.

Too many workers are dying already in the U.S., with an average of 13 employees killed doing job tasks every single day. A rising death rate means even more heartache for surviving family members, and employers need to try to improve safety measures so the death rate does not continue to climb as more people go back to work due to continuing economic recovery.

Some workers were more vulnerable to injury risks than others. A total of 17 percent of workplace injuries in 2014, for example, involved contract workers. There was an overall six percent increase in the number of contract workers killed, for a total of 797 fatalities among employees with this designation. Employers need to improve training for contract workers to try to prevent future tragic injury, as these workers are often not permanent employees and may not have the same level of experience as full-time staff.

There were also increases in the number of fatal work injuries involving workers aged 55 and up, with nine percent more fatal work injuries occurring among this age group in 2014 as compared with 2013. This is the highest number of fatalities among this demographic group ever.  Police deaths also went up by 17 percent.

Employers need to try to do their part to fight rising death rates as new employees head back to work due to dropping unemployment. Safety training should be provided, especially to employees who were out of the workforce for a period during the recession.


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