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Still Too Many Workers Died on the Job in 2012

Thursday, August 22, 2013
Press Contacts: 

Dorry Samuels Levine, (508) 277-7997, dorry.samuels@gmail.com

Tom O’Connor, (919) 428-6915, oconnorta@gmail.com

Still Too Many Workers Died on the Job in 2012

Statement of Tom O’Connor, Executive Director, National Council for Occupational Safety and Health

The new statistics about worker injuries and deaths released today by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics depict an improving – but still troubling – view of today’s workforce: Still far too many workers are injured or killed on the job every day in the U.S.

While it is good to see the overall numbers of worker fatalities in 2012 decrease from the previous year’s rate, today’s figures still estimate that 4,383 workers were killed on the job last year – an average of 12 workers every day. And this does not include the many deaths from occupational diseases, estimated to be 10 times the number of fatalities due to injuries.

And though the rate of worker fatalities is down by more than 6 percent from 2011, we are troubled by the following:

  • Workers are increasingly being killed on the job in the rapidly growing energy sector, with fatalities in the private mining industry up 14 percent, in the oil and gas extraction industry up 23 percent, and in the coal mining industry up 9 percent.
  • Approximately 17 percent of workers killed on the job last year died as a result of workplace violence. While several states – including Washington, Oregon, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Illinois – have issued rules protecting workers from violence on the job, federal OSHA has failed to issue a standard to prevent workplace violence.
  • Far too many young workers are dying on the job; fatal work injuries involving workers under 16 years of age nearly doubled, rising from 10 in 2011 to 19 in 2012—the highest total since 2005. Nearly three-quarters of these young workers were employed in the agricultural industry.

The high rate of young worker deaths is even more tragic because the Obama administration in April 2012 withdrew a proposal that would have put dangerous work off-limits to youth – as young as 12 years old – employed on farms. Instead of protecting young workers, the Obama administration gave in to agribusiness industry opposition and rescinded its proposed tougher rules.

It is always a relief to see the number of workers killed on the job decrease, but still far too many workers are faced in perilous positions on the job for our work to be done.

Federal OSHA should implement a workplace violence prevention standard, work with other government agencies to ensure that worker safety is a top concern among the flourishing energy industry, and promulgate rules to protect young workers who may not be aware of hazardous conditions on the job.

To read the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ preliminary results on fatal occupational injuries last year, visit: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cfoi.pdf.

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The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health is a federation of local and statewide organizations; a private, non-profit coalition of labor unions, health and technical professionals, and others interested in promoting and advocating for worker health and safety.

To learn more about the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, visit: http://www.coshnetwork.org.