The AFL-CIO recently released its 22nd annual report on work-related deaths and injuries, Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect. The report said that there were 3.8 million reported cases of work-related illnesses and injuries and 4,693 people killed at work in 2011. The report also noted that 50,000 people die each year because of occupational illnesses caused by exposure to hazardous materials or situations.
Fatal accidents at work are the most prevalent in the following sectors: transportation and warehousing, construction and forestry/agriculture/fishing/hunting. Each of these industry sectors relies on heavy equipment, raising the likelihood of a fatality when a work-related accident occurs.
In Virginia alone, reported worker injuries and illnesses totaled 88,500 in 2011. However, because of underreporting, the AFL-CIO estimates that the true number of people harmed in the workplace is closer to 265,000. These figures do not account for illnesses and injuries that are related to work, such as chronic health conditions caused by exposure to harmful materials.
The organization reported 127 work-related deaths in Virginia in 2011.
- Transportation accidents, 61
- Assault and violence, 23
- Workplace equipment accidents, 20
- Hazardous materials/environments, 12
- Falls, 10
- Fires and explosions, 1
Some workers die as a result of violence at the workplace. Death by homicide and suicide is the second-leading cause of death on the job, in Virginia and nationwide.
According to the Virginia Department of Health, 227 Virginia residents died in violent incidents at the workplace during 2003-2010. However, worker safety issues are most often related to unsafe conditions, hazardous activities and workplace accidents.
The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry conducts workplace inspections for hazards and responds to worker concerns about safety. The department lists the most common safety violations in the state. For construction sites, failure to provide fall protection to workers is the No. 1 violation. In general industry, the most common citation is for failure to provide respiratory protection to workers.
Workers who are injured or become sick because of their jobs, and people who have lost family members in job-related deaths, may be entitled to compensation. The Virginia workers’ compensation law firm of Geoff McDonald and Associates in Richmond helps clients get justice and receive compensation for work-related injuries, illnesses and fatalities.