Our Charlotte workers’ compensation lawyers are pleased to finally report some good news: The North Carolina Department of Labor has just released a report indicating that the number of workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses last year dropped significantly over the pervious year.
The figures indicate that there were 35 workplace fatalities in 2012, compared to 53 in 2011. With regard to injuries and illnesses, the rate dropped from an incident rate of 3.1 for every 100 workers in 2011 down to 2.9 in 2012.
As compared to 1999, these rates represent a significant improvement. Also, North Carolina was ranked as one of the top 10 safest states in which to work, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
While these numbers are encouraging, they are tempered by the fact that any workplace death, injury or illness is one too many. We also don’t have the totals available yet for 2013, so we don’t know if this downward trend is one that has continued.
As we head into 2014, there is still much that must be done in order to ensure that North Carolina’s workers return home each evening safe and healthy.
The Occupational Safety & Health Division of the state’s labor department notes it has set up partnerships with industry leaders in some of the most hazard-prone work environments. There have also been a number of alerts issued relating to the dangers of certain equipment, such as forklifts, as well as risky work conditions such as falling objects and heat stress. Firefighter safety also garnered a significant amount of attention from labor leaders last year.
But all of this was not enough to get those work injury figures down to zero. The OSH has pinpointed four areas that continue to cause the most workplace fatalities in North Carolina. Accounting for 8 out of 10 work-related deaths in the last 10 years were:
- Struck-by events;
- Caught in-between events;
Struck-by incidents caused the greatest number of worker deaths in the state last year (14), followed by incidents in which a worker was caught in-between objects (six), followed by high elevation falls (five) and electrocutions (four).
By far the most dangerous industry is construction. That accounted for nearly one-third of all fatal incidents in the state last year. The second most dangerous industry was agriculture, forestry and fishing, followed by manufacturing and then the services industry.
While overall deaths fell, the numbers in the latter two industries actually increased. In the case of manufacturing, the number of work-related fatalities doubled (from three to six).
One particular point of concern is that one quarter of North Carolina’s 100 counties accounted for all of its fatalities, with Gaston, Mecklenburg, Wake, Harnett, Iredell, Rockingham and Sampson reporting the highest number of worker deaths.
Most businesses don’t want this kind of reputation, and it’s worth noting that many have taken steps toward improving work conditions over the last several years. But they aren’t doing enough, particularly as we see the same areas struggling with the same issues over and over again.
These are preventable mistakes and hazards. Our sincere hope is that the downward trend will continue. However, it’s imperative that employers not rest on their laurels and become lax on these issues. Every worker’s health and life is invaluable.
If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.
Workplace Injuries Drop in North Carolina, Dec. 4, 2013, Staff Report, Insurance rnal
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Proving Extent of Injury Key in NC Worker Compensation Cases, Dec. 12, 2013, Charlotte Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog