Raleigh, NC (WorkersCompensation.com) - Work-related fatalities in North Carolina increased in 2014 based on preliminary figures released today by the state Labor Department. The construction industry experienced 19 fatalities, 12 more than 2013. Construction fatalities accounted for 43 percent of the 44 workplace fatalities that occurred.
“These deaths are tragic,” Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry said. “I never lose sight of the fact that these are human lives lost at work, and I take each one personally. These were someone's husband or wife, mother or father, brother or sister, son or daughter, and in some cases grandparent. They were best friends and co-workers. The average age was 43 years old, much too young to become a workplace statistic.”
Other industry data show that many construction accidents are happening within the first 60 to 90 days on the job and in some cases on the first day of work.
“To hear that workers are getting injured on the first day or between 60 and 90 days on the job sends a red flag that the workers are not getting the necessary training prior to starting the work,” Commissioner Berry added. “Whether the workers are new to the industry or returning after the lull in construction that began in 2007, the workers need training or refresher training before starting the job, training that we provide at no cost to the employer. Just call us at 1-800-NCLABOR.”
Struck-by events accounted for the most work-related deaths with 18. Falls accounted for 13 deaths, including one fall from the same level and 12 falls from an elevation. Seven workers died after being caught in/between objects.
“All of us—safety professionals, employers and employees—must do better in identifying struck-by hazards, which represented nearly half of the fatalities last year,” said Allen McNeely, director of the Occupational Safety and Health Division. “Staying vigilant around heavy machinery and construction material is critical.”
The Labor Department's OSH Division has taken a proactive approach to help prevent injuries, illnesses and fatalities in North Carolina workplaces by establishing partnerships with some of the most hazardous industries. The OSH Division also issues industry hazard alerts on forklifts, struck-bys, heat stress, firefighter safety and other hazards to heighten awareness.
“The department detected a spike in construction incidents earlier in the year and began working with Builders Mutual Insurance Company to address the problem,” Commissioner Berry said. “We put our heads together and created public service announcements addressing top hazards that began airing on Univision during the last quarter of 2014 paid for by Builders Mutual and Univision. Thanks to another donation by Skanska USA Building and Univision, the PSAs will continue airing through March of this year.”
The public service announcements address falls and struck-bys—two of the construction industry's “big four” hazards—which were the top two leading causes of work-related deaths in 2014. The PSAs also address the importance of returning home to loved ones at the end of the workday.
The OSH Division's Education, Training and Technical Assistance Bureau will increase training opportunities for the construction industry and has put additional emphasis on outreach regarding falls and struck-by hazards.
The state's injury and illness rate for private industry dropped to an all-time low of 2.7 per 100 full-time workers for 2013. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles the injury and illness rate data. Based on the most recent data released by the BLS, North Carolina was one of 12 states with a rate statistically lower than the national average of 3.3.
Manufacturing had the second highest number of work-related deaths with nine, five more than the previous year. The services industry increased from one fatality to six work-related fatalities. Agriculture, forestry and fishing decreased from seven fatalities in 2013 to three in 2014. There were also three fatalities in the transportation and public utility industry, an increase from one in 2013. Government increased from no work-related fatalities in 2013 to two in 2014, and finance, insurance and real estate increased from none to one. Retail trade had no work-related fatalities, and the wholesale trade experienced one in 2014.
There were no work-related fatalities in 69 of North Carolina's 100 counties. Mecklenburg County led with five fatalities. Union County and Wake County experienced three each. Forsyth, Gaston, Guilford, Henderson and Pender experienced two fatalities each. There were 23 counties that experienced one fatality.
Whites accounted for 26 of the 44 work-related fatalities. Blacks accounted for seven, and Hispanics for 11. Men accounted for 43 of the 44 deaths. One woman died in the services industry.