47 workers in Massachusetts killed on the job in 2010

There were 47 Massachusetts workers who died on the job in 2010, according to a report that was recently released by the Massachusetts AFL-CIO and the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH). The report was titled, “Dying for Work in Massachusetts: Loss of Life and Limb in Massachusetts Workplaces” and was released in union with Workers’ Memorial Day on April 28.

In all, it was reported that 21 percent of the job-related deaths occurred in the construction industry, which continues to be the most dangerous industry in the state. The transportation industry had the second highest number of fatalities with 12 in the state in 2010.

Also worth noting is that another approximately 440 workers in the state died from diseases they had contracted in the workplace, and it was reported that temporary and immigrant workers are believed to face an increased sick for workplace illness, injury or death.

The report concluded that more safety precautions and better supervision are necessary to prevent this high number of work-related deaths from occurring in the state. Ultimately, these workplace accidents and deaths are usually preventable, the report said.

The president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO said that many of the families who lost loved ones to workplace deaths last year must now also “struggle with the fact that an existing safety regulation could have saved their loved one’s life.” But that would require the employer to “care enough to properly implement [the safety regulation],” the AFL-CIO president said.

According to the report, the problem is that there needs to be more regulation and enforcement provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but that is not possible as “OSHA lacks funding, staff and tools to deter violations.” What has happened is that employers ignore OSHA safety regulations because they believe they won’t be caught or punished, the report said.

Another issue the report discussed was the need for better protections for immigrant workers. This would involve bilingual accident investigators and better whistleblower protections, the report said. In addition, the report called for regulations implementing safer scheduling and staffing arrangements, and all-inclusive workplace safety programs.

Source: EHS Today, “MassCOSH: 47 Massachusetts Workers Died on the Job in 2010; Improved Safety Oversight Needed,” Laura Walter, 5/2/2011.