Workplace Fatalities Rise to 7-Year High
By Nathan D. Williams, Staff Writer
Preliminary data Released earlier in September by the annual Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries from the U.S. Department of Labor paints a troubling picture. Although 2014’s total workplace fatality number of 4,679 was only 2% higher than 2013’s revised total of 4,585, it is still the highest number since 2008. On an overall basis, the fatality rate though is likely steady at just over 3 deaths per 100,000 workers.
Most dangerous industries
Construction saw a 6% increase over 2013 and remains the deadliest industry. However, fatalities in oil and gas extraction increased by an astounding 27% to their highest level in over 20 years. Not surprisingly, major energy producing states like Texas, Wyoming and Colorado saw the highest jump in fatal work injuries.
The Labor Department releases revised figures each spring and generally reports an additional 100 to 200 fatalities, so it’s likely these numbers are slightly worse.
Other industries with higher workplace fatalities in 2014 over the year before include:
Mining – up 17%
Agriculture – up 14%
Manufacturing – up 9%
Construction – up 6%
Interesting and alarming at the same time, female worker fatalities rose 13% last year. Workers over 55 saw a 9% increase in fatalities to 1,621 (preliminary), which is the highest number ever recorded by the annual Labor Department report.
When broken down by occupation rather than industry, we get a better picture of the type of jobs most at-risk.
Transportation and freight are by far the most dangerous, accounting for 28% of all fatal injuries on-the-job in 2014. Transportation incidents across all sectors accounted for 40% of fatal workplace injuries last year.
Despite these troubling numbers, the news wasn’t all bad.
Fatal work injuries among government workers for example were down 12% last year, while fatalities among Hispanics and Latinos dropped slightly.
Despite an increased emphasis on enforcing existing workplace-safety standards in recent years, the fatality rate in the workplace has not improved. Safety advocates feel many of these standards are simply outdated and insufficient.
Victims’ families obtain compensation
While you can’t put a true price on the loss of a loved one, there are expenses and other situations that warrant compensation from the responsible party in the form of a wrongful death lawsuit.
Workers’ compensation and/or personal injury attorneys represent the deceased workers’ estate on behalf of a spouse and any dependent children. Age limits and other liability caps are set on a state-by-state basis.
Loss of quality of life
Loss of monetary support and wages
Pain the worker suffered before death
Loss of love, companionship and emotional support
Victims’ families absolutely must discuss their case with a workers’ comp or personal injury attorney in their state as soon as possible – in most cases, the statute of limitations is only a couple of years.
Settlements in these type cases can vary. While the majority of cases settle out of court, some go all the way through a trial and verdict by a jury. A couple of fairly recent cases include:
$17 million settlement in the case of a 45-year old father of five who was fatally by a 300-lb iron hook at a construction site in 2011. The specific cause of death was blamed on a poorly maintained and operated crane carrying the large hook.
$1.2 million settlement in the case of a 26-year old worker at a brewery in New Hampshire. The fatal accident occurred when the victim was pressurizing a keg with air and it , leading to cardiac arrest and other injuries to the chest and head.
Again, if you’ve lost a loved one due to a workplace accident, we first want to express our deepest condolences. However, there is a devastating financial impact to these situations as well, which why it’s important you speak with an attorney in your area as soon as you can.