Preliminary figures released in late January by the North Carolina Department of Labor (NCDOL) show a decline in work-related fatalities in 2015. NCDOL tracks work-related fatalities that fall within its jurisdictional authority to conduct inspections. Fatalities declined from 45 in 2014 to 41 in 2015.
The construction industry continues to be the most hazardous industry in the state. The industry suffered 12 work-related fatalities in 2015, which was seven fewer than the 19 that occurred in 2014.
“Again, one death is too many, but the decline is encouraging, particularly in construction where we experienced a spike in 2014,” state labor commissioner Cherie Berry said in a news release. “The department will continue its alliances with Carolinas AGC and other organizations to maximize its reach in the commercial construction industry, which suffered all 12 work-related fatalities in the construction industry in 2015.”
Falls from elevations accounted for the most work-related deaths with 13. Struck-by events were a close second with 12 deaths. Five workers died after being caught in/between objects. Four workers were electrocuted. Two workers died from possible asphyxiation. Five workers died in other events.
“Every work-related death in North Carolina, including those on the federal report outside of the department’s authority, is tragic and has an effect on co-workers, families and communities,” Commissioner Berry said. “The department will continue our outreach and training to help prevent fatalities. These efforts have always been and will continue to be my number one priority as labor commissioner.”
The state figures exclude traffic accidents, which account for nearly half of all work-related deaths, as well as homicides and suicides that are investigated by law enforcement agencies, and 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.
The federal figures, compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) with the cooperation of NCDOL, include all work-related fatalities. There were 128 fatalities in 2014, including 46 in traffic accidents and 16 from violent acts for which the department does not have the jurisdictional authority to conduct inspections. The federal figures for 2014, the latest figures available, can be found on the BLS website. BLS will provide preliminary fatality figures for 2015 in October of this year.
“There are many reasons why the department tracks only those work-related deaths within its jurisdictional authority,” Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry said. “The department’s figures can be broken down by county and are timely, whereas the federal workplace fatality figures are reported in aggregate form and cannot be broken down by county. The federal figures are also nearly a year behind and are out of date when we receive them. It is very important to follow workplace accidents as they are happening in real time to prevent similar deaths in other parts of the state. By tracking in real time, the department can also notify particular industries of any concerning patterns or trends identified or place additional emphasis through education and training in certain counties or regions where deaths are happening. We have to know where to focus our resources.”
The Labor Department’s OSH Division provides a mix of consultative services, compliance, and education and training free of charge to employers and employees across the state to help prevent injuries, illnesses and fatalities in North Carolina workplaces. The division also partners with businesses and organizations that represent some of the most hazardous industries through partnerships and alliances.
The state’s injury and illness rate for private industry remained at its record low of 2.7 per 100 full-time workers for 2014, the most recent data available. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles the injury and illness rate data. North Carolina was one of 14 states and the District of Columbia with a rate statistically lower than the national average of 3.2.
There were no work-related fatalities in 77 of North Carolina’s 100 counties. Wake County led with seven fatalities. Mecklenburg County, Onslow County and Wayne County experienced three each. Cumberland, Forsyth, Gaston, Madison, New Hanover and Wilkes experienced two fatalities each. There were 13 counties that experienced one fatality apiece.
Whites accounted for 25 of the 41 work-related fatalities. Blacks accounted for four, and Hispanics for 11. One victim was Asian. Men accounted for all 41 of the deaths.