Forty-eight workers were killed last year at job sites regulated by the state Labor Department, the highest number in six years, according to preliminary figures released Monday.
The workers ranged in age from the 17-year-old lifeguard who was electrocuted and drowned at a North Raleigh swimming pool in September to a 73-year-old man hit by a vehicle at a substance abuse center in Wake County. All but four of the workers were men, and all were classified by the state as laborers.
The report does not include workers killed on the job in traffic accidents or homicides, nor does it include self-employed workers or those killed on small farms and at federal facilities not regulated by the state Labor Department.
The most common type of fatal accidents – 19 – involved workers who were hit by vehicle, machinery or fallen trees, while falls from roofs, scaffolding and ladders accounted for another 12.
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“Year after year, we see falls and struck-by incidents take the lives of too many workers,” Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry said in a statement. “Falls and struck-bys are especially troubling because we know nearly all of these types of workplace accidents can be prevented when proper safety training is coupled with the proper use of personal protective equipment.”
Construction continued to be the most hazardous industry in the state, accounting for 19 worker deaths in 2016, seven more than the previous year. Manufacturing was second, with nine deaths, down from 11 the year before.
Only three of the deaths took place in the Triangle, all in Wake County. Mecklenburg County led the state with 12.
The number of worker deaths last year was five more than in 2015, and the most since 53 people died on the job in 2011.
But overall, worker safety has improved over the years in North Carolina and nationwide, largely because of state and federal worker safety rules and the requirements of workers’ compensation insurance programs. The injury and illness rate for private employers dropped to an all-time low of 2.6 incidents for every 100 full-time workers in 2015, the most recent year available, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s down from 5.7 per 100 workers in 1999.