AROUND THE NATION

MASSACHUSETTS

State Workplace Deaths On the Rise

A new report documenting workplace fatalities in Massachusetts revealed that 80 workers died in 2007, marking the state's highest annual fatality count within the last 4 years.

“Dying for Work in Massachusetts: The Loss of Life and Limb in Massachusetts Workplaces,” produced by the Massachusetts AFL-CIO and the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH), called for higher OSHA fines, stronger government enforcement and for employers to take more responsibility in protecting their workers.

Twenty-five percent of the fatalities were caused by transportation-related accidents, while nearly another quarter were attributed to falls, according to the report. Sixty-eight percent of the falls occurred in the construction industry. In addition to the 80 workers killed on the job, the report estimates that 800 workers in the state died in 2007 from workplace-related illnesses.

The report also pointed out that immigrant workers in the state often are exposed to poor working conditions. Language barriers, lack of training, employer exploitation and fear of retaliation or deportation contribute to the challenges of the immigrant workforce.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Report Cites Poor Training, Outdated Tactics in S.C. Firefighter Deaths

A long-awaited report released by a panel of fire experts appointed by the city of Charleston, S.C., concluded that “insufficient training, inadequate staffing, obsolete equipment and outdated tactics” all contributed to the deaths of nine firefighters battling a deadly blaze that engulfed a furniture store June 18, 2007.

The 272-page report prepared by the City of Charleston Post Incident Assessment and Review Team examined a wide range of issues related to the Sofa Super Store fire, but it blamed the Charleston Fire Department for not providing adequate protections for its firefighters by not complying with standards or accepted fire service practices.

In addition to failing to provide adequate direction, supervision and coordination over firefighting operations, the report also said the culture of the city's fire department “promoted aggressive offensive tactics that exposed firefighters to excessive and avoidable risk and failed to apply basic firefighter safety practices.”

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