Construction industry tops workplace fatality count for 2022: NCDOL

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North Carolina Construction News staff writer

Struck-by incidents and falls from elevation caused the largest number of work-related deaths last year in North Carolina, based on preliminary information released by the N.C. department of labor (NCDOL). The occupational safety and health (OSH) division inspected 63 non COVID-19 work-related fatalities that occurred in 2022. The division also inspected three cases reported as deaths related to COVID-19.

The construction industry suffered the most work-related fatalities with 21 in 2022, six more than in 2021. Most of the construction industry deaths were due to falls from elevation. The services industry had the second highest number of work-related deaths with 11, a decrease of 15 from the previous year. Manufacturing had the third highest number of work-related deaths with 10.

Agriculture, forestry and fishing had nine fatalities in 2022, four more than in 2021. There were seven fatalities in government, a decrease from ten in 2021. Retail trade experienced four fatalities in 2022. There were also two work-related fatalities in wholesale trade, a decrease from three in 2021. Finance, insurance and real estate experienced one workplace fatality. The transportation and public utilities industry also experienced one workplace fatality.

“Workplace fatalities weigh heavily on my mind and are the most difficult part of my job as Labor Commissioner,” Labor Commissioner Josh Dobson said in a statement. “I am notified about every workplace fatality in North Carolina that falls within our department’s jurisdiction.

“Our department is constantly working to provide education, training and compliance resources on high hazard industries and promoting the importance of putting safety and health at the forefront of what we do.”

Tracking work-related deaths helps pinpoint where fatalities are occurring and puts a focus on counties or regions where deaths on the job are happening. By tracking fatalities in real time, the department can also notify industries of any concerning patterns or trends identified and issue hazard alerts.

“Each of these fatalities represents a person who was not able to go home to their family at the end of the day,” Deputy Commissioner of the Occupational Safety and Health Division Jennifer Haigwood said. “Nearly all workplace fatalities are avoidable, and our mission at the OSH Division is to work with employers and employees to ensure that these tragedies are prevented in the future.

“The OSH Division offers a host of educational and training resources for businesses and workers in all industries. I strongly encourage employers and employees to contact the Division to learn more about these resources, all of which are free of charge. Our goal is to help North Carolina’s workforce continue to thrive, and a safe and healthful work environment is a critical component toward achieving that goal.”

The OSH Division partners with businesses and organizations that represent some of the most hazardous industries through partnerships and alliances to heighten industry awareness and assist with education and training.

There were no work-related fatalities in 60 of North Carolina’s 100 counties. Durham county led with six workplace fatalities, followed by Wake and Johnston with five workplace fatalities each. Guilford and Mecklenburg experienced three workplace fatalities each. There were 9 counties that experienced two workplace fatalities each. Twenty-six counties experienced one workplace fatality each.

Whites accounted for 34 of the 63 non COVID-19 work-related fatalities. Hispanics accounted for 20, Blacks for eight and Native Americans for one. Men accounted for 54 deaths and women accounted for nine non COVID-19 workplace deaths.

The state figures exclude fatalities that fall outside its jurisdictional authority. These include traffic accidents, which account for nearly half of all work-related deaths, as well as some homicides and suicides that are investigated by law enforcement agencies. The count also excludes fatalities investigated by federal OSHA and other exemptions in which the department does not have the authority to investigate, such as on farms with 10 or fewer employees.

Federal figures compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with cooperation of NCDOL, include all work-related fatalities. The federal figures for 2021, the latest figures available, can be found on the BLS website. Data for 2022 will be available in December.

Businesses may call 1-800-NC-LABOR to learn more about free safety training opportunities provided by NCDOL.

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