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National COSH Says More than 100K Workplace Deaths Can Be Prevented

Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Press Contacts: 

Roger Kerson, 734.645.0535; roger@nationalcosh.org

National COSH Recognizes First-Ever “Outstanding Health and Safety Stories, 2016”

Workplace Fatalities Are Increasing – and a Leading Cause of Death is Also Most-Violated OSHA Standard

SAN DIEGO, CA – The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, one of the nation’s leading workplace safety organizations, today released Preventable Deaths 2016,” a report outlining the more than 100,000 annual deaths due to acute workplace trauma and long-term exposure to on-the-job hazards.

This year, the organization also recognized for the first time “Outstanding Health and Safety Stories, 2016,” including film, print, broadcast and Internet stories which highlight occupational hazards and workplace fatalities.

With newly-updated data on workplace fatalities from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Preventable Deaths 2016” reports that 4,821 workers died on the job from traumatic events in the workplace in 2014, a 5.1% increase from 4,585 deaths in 2013.

 “An increase in workplace deaths is a wake-up call for all of us,” said Jessica Martinez, acting executive director of National COSH. “All the evidence shows that we can save lives – by strong enforcement and worker-involved safety programs to prevent sudden deaths in the workplace, and by removing the long-term hazards that are slow, silent killers.”

“American workers are dying, but American journalism is not dead,” said Martinez. “We are proud to recognize this year, for the first time, the in-depth work of journalists and story-tellers who are revealing trends about how and why workers are getting sick and losing their lives.  This is exactly the kind of information workers and activists need to make our workplaces safer.”

Additional study is needed, said Martinez, to determine why workplace deaths increased in 2014.  Available evidence indicates that the higher number of deaths is not linked to an upsurge in economic activity. The BLS reports that the rate of fatalities also increased in 2014, to 3.4 deaths per 100,000 full-time equivalent jobs, up from 3.3 in 2013.

Other key findings from “Preventable Deaths 2016” include:

  • A leading cause of workplace death – falls, slips and trips – increased to 818 fatalities in 2014, a thirteen percent increase from 724 deaths in 2013.  The hazards of working at heights are well-known, as are tested and effective safety protocols to protect workers. OSHA’s fall protection standard, however, is the most frequently violated rule in the United States; the agency issued 7,402 citations for violation of the standard in 2015.
  • More than 95,000 U.S. workers die each year from the illnesses caused by long-term exposure to workplace hazards, according to a 2014 estimate by leading scholars and practitioners published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene. This estimated death toll from cancer as well as heart, lung, kidney and other diseases is much higher than previous estimates.
  • “Cancers caused by work can be prevented by reducing or eliminating the exposures leading to the disease,” writes Jukka Takala, president of the International Commission on Occupational Health and the lead author of the 2014 study on deaths due to long-term workplace hazards.

Preventable Deaths 2016” includes case reports of individual workers who died on the job drawn from the U.S. Worker Fatality Database, a cooperative effort by National COSH and partner organizations to compile names, faces and facts about workers who die on the job every year.

“Outstanding Health and Safety Stories, 2016” were selected by the National COSH team of staff, consultants and volunteer members of our Board of Directors, based on an extensive review of film, print, Internet and broadcast stories about occupational safety published during the past year.  The winning selections:

Film

Print, Internet and Broadcast

Print, online and broadcast stories are presented in order of date of publication. National COSH recognizes each of these stories equally as an extraordinary contribution to public understanding of workplace safety.

Selection criteria included stories that are a result of in-depth investigation; stories showing trends that affect many workers and families; and effective use of multimedia Internet capabilities with photos, video, infographics and links to databases of injuries and fatalities.

“At a time when many news organizations are responding to economic pressures by chasing clicks with provocative headlines, these outstanding stories can provoke outrage about deaths that can and should be prevented, ” said Peter Dooley, a project health and safety consultant at National COSH.  “We can save lives by empowering workers, requiring employers to rigorously follow existing safety standards, and passing stronger health and safety laws and regulations.”

Preventable Deaths 2016” is being released to mark Workers’ Memorial Week, a global event that commemorates workers who lost their lives on the job.  In the United States, more than 90 local communities in 32 states will remember workers killed on the job. A listing of events is available on the National COSH website. 

We also have infographics for your use in print or on-line. Please credit the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health when using any of the images.

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National COSH links the efforts of local worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States, advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace. For more information, please visit coshnetwork.org.  Follow us at National Council for Occupational Safety and Health on Facebook, and @NationalCOSH on Twitter.