Fifty-three workplace fatalities in NC

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Fifty-three people were killed on the job in North Carolina last year, three more than the year before, the state Department of Labor announced.  The News and Observer  reported the majority of deaths resulted from falls or from workers being struck by vehicles, equipment, trees or building materials.

Four died in heat-related incidents; heat had not caused a workplace fatality in the state since 2006. With scorching temperatures during the summer months, the Labor Department kicked off a heat safety initiative last year to help avoid heat stress, and that will continue, said Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry.

Wake had the most workplace fatalities last year, with six; Durham had three, including two men who suffocated in a manhole along U.S. 70 in June.

The construction industry surpassed all others with a total of 16 workplace deaths, a decrease from 17 in 2010. Agriculture, forestry and fishing had 10 fatalities. Men accounted for all but one of the 53 people who died.

The number of workers killed on the job in the state hit its lowest point in 2009, with 34 fatalities, before rising to 48 in 2010.

State officials say that despite the higher number of deaths, the rate of injuries and illnesses among workers is at an all-time low for private industry: 3.1 per 100 workers in 2010, compared with 5.3 per 100 workers in 2000.

State offers training

Still, because the Labor Department offers free health and safety training, “the real tragedy is that all of these fatalities could have been avoided,” Berry said.

“I encourage all employers to pick up the phone and call the Department of Labor to take advantage of our safety training services that are customized to meet their specific needs,” she said.

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