Workplace deaths declined again in North Carolina last year

rstradling@newsobserver.comJanuary 16, 2014 

— Twenty-three people were killed at work in North Carolina last year, the N.C. Department of Labor announced Thursday.

That’s down from 38 deaths the year before and 53 in 2011.

All of the workers killed last year were men and were classified as “laborers” by the Labor Department. Their average age was 44.

“These were fathers, husbands, sons, brothers, co-workers and friends,” Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry said in a prepared statement. “I believe North Carolina is benefiting from increased awareness of safety and health in both private industry and the government, but we must do better.”

The numbers include only workplace deaths that fall under the Labor Department’s jurisdiction. Deaths due to workplace violence or among self-employed workers aren’t counted, nor are motor vehicle accidents. A truck driver killed in an accident on the job would not be counted, but a worker killed at a highway construction site would, said Labor Department spokesman Neal O’Briant.

Eleven workers were killed last year when they were hit by a vehicle or falling object like a tree, while six were killed in falls, according to the Labor Department. Three died after being caught in machinery; two inhaled toxic fumes, and one was electrocuted.

Only one of the deaths occurred in the Triangle. A 52-year-old man died when he was caught in a mulch dyeing machine in Wake County last March.

Worker safety has improved in the state and nationwide, largely the result of state and federal worker safety rules and the requirements of workers’ compensation insurance programs. The number of workplace illnesses and injuries in North Carolina dropped in 2012 to 2.9 incidents for every 100 full-time workers in 2012, the most recent year available. That’s down from 5.7 per 100 workers in 1999.

The national figures dropped from 6.3 illnesses and injuries per 100 workers in 1999 to 3.4 in 2012.

Stradling: 919-829-4739

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