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Workers Memorial Day 2016: National COSH Says More than 100,000 Workplace Deaths Can Be Prevented

Workers Memorial Day 2016: National COSH Says More than 100,000 Workplace Deaths Can Be Prevented

According to National COSH, workplace fatalities are increasing and a leading cause of work-related death also is the most-violated OSHA standard.

The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH), one of the nation’s leading workplace safety organizations, on April 27 released “Preventable Deaths 2016,” a report outlining the more than 100,000 annual deaths due to acute workplace trauma and long-term exposure to on-the-job hazards.


This year, the organization also recognized for the first time “Outstanding Health and Safety Stories, 2016,” including film, print, broadcast and Internet stories which highlight occupational hazards and workplace fatalities.


With newly updated data on workplace fatalities from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Preventable Deaths 2016” reports that 4,821 workers died on the job from traumatic events in the workplace in 2014, a 5.1 percent increase from 4,585 deaths in 2013.


“An increase in workplace deaths is a wake-up call for all of us,” said Jessica Martinez, acting executive director of National COSH. “All the evidence shows that we can save lives – by strong enforcement and worker-involved safety programs to prevent sudden deaths in the workplace, and by removing the long-term hazards that are slow, silent killers.”


Additional study is needed, said Martinez, to determine why workplace deaths increased in 2014.  Available evidence indicates that the higher number of deaths is not linked to an upsurge in economic activity. The BLS reports that the rate of fatalities also increased in 2014, to 3.4 deaths per 100,000 full-time equivalent jobs, up from 3.3 in 2013. Other key findings from “Preventable Deaths 2016” include:


A leading cause of workplace death – falls, slips and trips – increased to 818 fatalities in 2014, a 13 percent increase from 724 deaths in 2013.  The hazards of working at heights are well known, as are tested and effective safety protocols to protect workers. OSHA’s fall protection standard, however, is the most frequently violated rule in the United States; the agency issued 7,402 citations for violation of the standard in 2015.

More than 95,000 U.S. workers die each year from the illnesses caused by long-term exposure to workplace hazards, according to a 2014 estimate by leading scholars and practitioners published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene. This estimated death toll from cancer as well as heart, lung, kidney and other diseases is much higher than previous estimates.

“Cancers caused by work can be prevented by reducing or eliminating the exposures leading to the disease,” writes Jukka Takala, president of the International Commission on Occupational Health and the lead author of the 2014 study on deaths due to long-term workplace hazards.


“Preventable Deaths 2016” includes case reports of individual workers who died on the job drawn from the U.S. Worker Fatality Database, a cooperative effort by National COSH and partner organizations to compile names, faces and facts about workers who die on the job every year.


Outstanding Health and Safety Stories, 2016

Martinez said the group is proud to recognize, for the first time, the in-depth work of journalists and storytellers who are revealing trends about how and why workers are getting sick and losing their lives. “This is exactly the kind of information workers and activists need to make our workplaces safer,” said Martinez.


 “Outstanding Health and Safety Stories, 2016” were selected by the National COSH team of staff, consultants and volunteer members of its board of directors, based on an extensive review of film, print, Internet and broadcast stories about occupational safety published during the past year.  The winning selections include:


“A Day’s Work”, released in 2015 and produced by David M. Garcia and Dave DeSario

Print, Internet and Broadcast

Selection criteria included stories that are a result of in-depth investigation; stories showing trends that affect many workers and families; and effective use of multimedia Internet capabilities with photos, video, infographics and links to databases of injuries and fatalities.

“At a time when many news organizations are responding to economic pressures by chasing clicks with provocative headlines, these outstanding stories can provoke outrage about deaths that can and should be prevented, ” said Peter Dooley, a project health and safety consultant at National COSH.  “We can save lives by empowering workers, requiring employers to rigorously follow existing safety standards, and passing stronger health and safety laws and regulations.”

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