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Report: 150 Americans die each day due to workplace injury or disease

A thumbs-up from a happy worker in Mason City
A thumbs-up from a happy worker in Mason City

WASHINGTON, DC – According to a report released by the AFL-CIO, 4,628 workers were killed in the United States during 2012 due to workplace injuries. Additionally an estimated 50,000 died from occupational diseases, resulting in a loss of nearly 150 workers each day from preventable workplace conditions.

“A hard day’s work should not be a death sentence,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “It is unconscionable that any worker has to choose between life and putting food on the table. When Congress votes to weaken worker protections or defund critical programs and when big corporations marginalize and deemphasize worker safety, they insult the memory of all those workers who have died while fighting to attain the American Dream.”

The report, entitled Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, marks the 23rd year the AFL-CIO has produced its findings on the state of safety and health protections for workers within the United States. The report shows the highest workplace fatality rates were found in North Dakota, Wyoming, Alaska, West Virginia and Montana, while Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire (tied), and Washington (tied) had the lowest state fatality rates.

Iowa was ranked 44th with 97 workplace fatalities, a rate per 100,000 workers of 6.6. It would take 110 years for IOSHA to inspect each workplace.

While national numbers remained steady from 2011, the most alarming statistics come from North Dakota, where the state’s job fatality rate of 17.7 per 100,000 workers is five times the national average, which is 3.4 per 100,000, and is among the highest state job fatality rates ever reported. Especially alarming is the high fatality rate in North Dakota for those in the mining and oil and gas extraction sector, where 104 out of every 100,000 workers died on the job, more than six times the national average in this industry.

The AFL-CIO’s report also highlights the number of Latino and immigrant workers killed on the job, with Latino workers facing a nine percent higher risk of a workplace death, 3.7 per 100,000 workers, than the national average. Of the 748 Latino workers killed on the job in 2012, 65% were immigrant workers, with the highest fatalities occurring in Texas, California, and Florida.

The report’s disturbing numbers come in the wake of further statistics showing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) remains underfunded, understaffed, and unable to levy penalties strong enough to deter workplace safety violations. At current levels, it would take federal and state OSHA inspectors an average of 105 years to inspect every workplace within the United States at least once, with South Dakota facing the largest backlog resulting in an estimated 521 years to inspect workplaces.

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