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AFL-CIO report points to high rate of worker fatalities, disproportionally affecting Latino workers

The AFL-CIO today released its 2013 “Death on the Job” report, just two weeks after National COSH released its report, “Preventable Deaths: The Tragedy of Workplace Fatalities.”

Like National COSH’s report, the AFL-CIO found that Latino workers face workplace fatalities at a startlingly higher rate than other workers. Latino workers face occupational fatalities at a 14 percent higher rate than other workers.

The AFL-CIO also factored occupational disease into its fatality data, painting a damning picture. Combining the statistic of 13 workers dying every day on the job with the rate of occupational illness in the country, the AFL-CIO estimated that 150 workers die a day because of work-related illnesses or injuries. 

In 2011, the latest year for which complete data is available, 3.8 million workers across all industries experienced work-related illnesses and injuries, the AFL-CIO reported. The true toll is estimated to be two to three times greater, but lack of reporting in this area results in lower official figures.

The job fatality rate had been declining steadily for many years, but in the past three years the rate has essentially been unchanged, at 3.5 fatalities per 100,000 workers, the AFL-CIO said. Similarly, for the past two years, there has been no change in the reported workplace injury and illness rate (3.5 per 100 workers). If we are to make progress in reducing job injuries and deaths, we will need more concerted efforts and additional resources.

This year’s report comes on the heels of a horrific explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, which killed 15 people, injured hundreds more and caused widespread destruction, as well as the tragic collapse of a building that housed garment factories in Bangladesh, which led to the death of over six hundred workers.

Also similar to National COSH’s report, the AFL-CIO examined the paltry fines imposed by OSHA on negligent employers.

The average penalty is only $2,156 for a serious federal health and safety violation, and only $974 for a state violation. Even in cases involving worker fatalities, the median total penalty was a paltry $5,175 for federal OSHA and $4,200 for the OSHA state plans, the AFL-CIO said. By contrast, property damage valued between $300 and $10,000 in the state of Illinois is considered a Class 4 felony and can carry a prison sentence of 1 to 3 years and a fine of up to $25,000.

Click here to read the full AFL-CIO report.

Click here to read National COSH’s report, as well as state reports from Massachusetts, North Carolina, California, and Tennessee.

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