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North Carolina Workers Dying for a Job, 2012 Report


A Report of NC Worker Fatalities in 2011

In Honor of Workers’ Memorial Day

April 28, 2012

National Council on Occupational Safety and Health

NC Workers Memorial Day Committee

Triangle Jobs with Justice Organizing Committee

Executive Summary

Despite some progress in combating unsafe working conditions, death and injury in NC workplaces continues to be far too common. Eighty-three NC residents died due to work-related injuries in 2011 (and likely many more from occupational illnesses.) Many of these deaths were due to highly preventable causes such as falls, machinery incidents, and heat stress.

The NC Department of Labor’s report of occupational fatalities greatly understates the true extent of the problem: The state DOL reported in January, 2012, that a total of 53 work-related deaths occurred in the state in 2011. This number, which includes only those cases that the state OSHA program investigated, seriously understates the true extent of the problem. Our analysis found that a minimum of 83 work-related fatalities occurred in NC in 2011. It is possible that this number is greater because some fatalities may not have been reported in news outlets.

Fines are far too low to act as an effective deterrent to unsafe working conditions: Our analysis of 2011 inspection data found that in fatality cases for which NC OSHA cited the employer for at least one violation of an OSHA standard, the median fine was only $3,250. The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Act limits maximum fines to a low level—$7,000 for a serious violation—but in most cases, NC OSHA fines employers less than half of this, even when a fatality occurs.

Workers of all ages are affected by job hazards, but young workers are particularly vulnerable. Four people aged 21 or under died on the job in NC in 2011. Two of these young men were working in construction-related jobs that were clearly hazardous, including one who worked on a communications tower.

Inadequate screening systems are in place to ensure that contractors bidding on public works projects provide safe working conditions for their employees: In at least two cases, involving three fatalities, workers were employed by contractors on state and local public works projects. One of these contractors, Triangle Grading and Paving, was awarded a public works contract because it was the lowest bidder, despite a long history of serious OSHA violations and having been assessed over $200,000 in OSHA fines for dozens of serious violations including several related to a previous worker fatality.

Latino workers are dying on the job in disproportionate numbers. Latinos are only seven percent of the state’s population, but accounted for 30 percent of fatal occupational injuries in 2011 for which race/ethnicity is known . Most of these deaths occurred in the construction and agricultural industries.

To download the full report, click the link to the attachment below.