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Report: 50,000+ Fatalities Annually from Workplace Injuries and Illnesses; Deaths Can Be Prevented, Safety Experts Say

Monday, April 21, 2014

Joyce Gilliard, Survivor of Georgia Film Set Tragedy

to Speak in Advance of Workers’ Memorial Week  

Study Highlights High Risks Faced by Hispanic Workers;

Calls for More Spanish-Language Outreach and Enhanced Whistleblower Protection

SAN DIEGO,CA- More than 50,000 U.S. workers die each year due to occupational injuries and illnesses, says “Preventable Death 2014,” an upcoming report from the National Council on Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH).  

“No one should have to risk their life simply to earn a living,” said Jessica Martinez, deputy director of National COSH. “Many of the injuries and illnesses that are killing American workers can be prevented.   We know the safety systems, equipment and training that can stop people from dying on the job, and it’s absolutely urgent that we take action to protect workers and their families.”

“After what I saw and lived through,” said Joyce Gilliard “I want to advocate for safety and prevent any other tragedies or injuries in the workplace.” Gilliard, a hair stylist, suffered a compound fracture when she survived a tragic incident on a train trestle which claimed the life of cinematographer Sarah Jones, 27, during a feature film shoot in Georgia on Feb. 20th.  

Who:                 Joyce Gilliard, survivor of tragedy that killed cinematographer Sarah Jones

                                  Jessica Martinez, Deputy Director, National COSH

                                  Peter Dooley, Senior Consultant, National COSH

What:               Telephone media briefing on “Preventable Deaths, 2014,” new report on workplace fatalities and how to prevent them

When:                 Wednesday, April 23rd, 2 pm (Eastern time)

Where:             Telephone call-in: 866-740-1260   Participant code: 9336322#.

                                  To join the call, please RSVP to [email protected]

“Preventable Deaths 2014” will combine data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on fatal workplace injuries with projections from peer-reviewed data on fatalities resulting from workplace illnesses such as cancer, respiratory, cardiovascular and renal disease.

The report from National COSH is being released in advance of Workers’ Memorial Week, a global event which commemorates workers who lost their lives on the job.   In the United States, more than 50 local communities in 27 states will honor fallen workers.     A listing of events is available on the National COSH website.

“Preventable Deaths 2014” will document the high rate of workplace fatalities due to injury experienced by Hispanic workers   — 4.2 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2012, compared to 3.7 deaths per 100,000 for the U.S. population as a whole.   This pattern of high risk for Hispanic workers, the report shows, has continued for at least the past five years.

“We know that Hispanic workers are in high-hazard jobs and training and communication make a huge difference, so we need to make sure training is available for all workers in a language they understand,” said Martinez. “That includes informing workers of their rights during any safety inspection that takes place in their workplace.”

“Preventable Deaths 2014” will also identity specific strategies to reduce workplace hazards in the six areas identified by BLS as leading causes of workplace fatalities:   Transportation incidents, contacts with objects and equipment, falls to a lower level, workplace, violence, exposure to harmful substances and environments, and fires and explosions.  

Attempts by individual states to weaken safety standards- such as legislation in Arizona which weakens fall protection for construction workers- are moving in exactly the wrong direction said Peter Dooley, a Tucson-based senior consultant for National COSH.

“More than 100 workers fell to their deaths in Arizona during the past decade,” said Dooley.   “Instead of weakening any rules, we should be implementing and enforcing the procedures that we know can save lives, like mandated use of safety protections systems to prevent falls.”

In addition to “Preventable Deaths 2014,” released on April 23rd by National COSH, local health and safety coalitions in California, Massachusetts, New York, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming will also release reports on workplace fatalities in their individual states next week, in conjunction with Worker Memorial Week activities.  

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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   Follow us at National Council for Occupational Safety and Health on Facebook, and @NationalCOSH on Twitter.