Report: Workplace deaths are preventable

April 23, 2013 by Ken Ward Jr.

This Thursday, April 18, 2013 aerial photo shows the remains of a nursing home, left, apartment complex, center, and fertilizer plant, right, destroyed by an explosion in West, Texas.  There were no sprinklers. No firewalls. No water deluge systems. Safety inspections were rare at the fertilizer company in West, Texas, that exploded and killed at least 14 people this week.   (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, file)

Despite getting far less media attention than the Boston Marathon bombing last week, the terrible explosion of a fertilizer facility in Texas has begun to prompt some strong reporting about the many gaps in our nation’s system to protect workers (not to mention folks who live near dangerous industries). For a few examples, check out here, here and here.

And now this morning, in advance of next week’s national Workers Memorial Day, we have the release of a report from the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, reminding us of this:

More than 4,600 workers were killed on the job in 2011 – the latest year for which we have complete data – spanning many ages, industries, and causes of death  …

The report, “Preventable Deaths: The Tragedy of Workplace Fatalities,” released today, pairs government data with heart-breaking stories about worker fatalities to portray the need for worker health and safety reforms.

Tom O’Connor, executive director of National COSH, said:

Each worker killed is a tragic loss to the community of family, friends and co-workers – and the worst part is, these deaths were largely preventable. Simply by following proven safety practices and complying with OSHA standards, many of these more than 4,600 deaths could have been avoided. But as companies decry regulations and emphasize profits over safety, workers pay the ultimate price.

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