State sees decline in workplace deaths

Feb. 06, 2013 @ 07:00 AM

There were fewer workplace-related deaths across the state in 2012.

In a report issued by the North Carolina Department of Labor, workplace deaths dropped 34 percent last year. There were 35 fatalities in 2012 compared to 53 in 2011.

Over the last seven years, the lowest number of workplace fatalities was in 2009 when the state reported 34.

There were 24 counties that reported workplace fatalities in 2012, including one in Rutherford County.

On May 8, 2012 a 35-year-old worker died in the county as a result of being struck by a steel pipe while working for an out-of-state construction company, in Forest City.

Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry said that the state has continued to work on efforts to reduce workplace accidents and fatalities.

“While zero is the only acceptable number, we are encouraged by a 34-percent drop and to see that our joint effort with the thousands of employers and employees made a difference,” Berry said in a statement.

Allen McNeely, director of the Occupational Safety and Health Division (OSH), the state has utilized hazard alerts regarding forklifts, struck-bys, heat stress and firefighter safety after identifying problems in those areas during the last year.

“We have increased our outreach to employers and employees with hazard alerts, industry guides and posters, as well as focused training,” McNeely said.

He said OSH will continue education processes in an attempt to decrease the state’s workplace fatality numbers in 2013.

In addition to a decrease in workplace fatalities, the state also reported that the injury and illness rate for private industry hit an all-time low with an average of 3.1 per 100 full-time workers. Berry said that the rate has been the same for the last three years.

Based on the data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, North Carolina is in the top 10 of safe states to work.

In 2012, the leading cause of work-related fatalities was struck-by events with 14. The state reported that six workers were caught in-between objects and five died from falls in elevators. Four workers were electrocuted and six workers died in other fatal events.

“While fatalities in the workplace were significantly lower this past year, struck-by hazards continue to rival falls as the cause of many worker deaths,” McNeely said. “These types of accidents can and should be avoided, so we still have plenty of work to do.”

Construction fatalities led the way with 10 in 2012 which was a decrease from 16 the previous year. The number of fatalities in manufacturing increased from three to six in 2012 and the services industry increased from four to six.

Gaston, Mecklenburg and Wake counties each experienced three fatalities while Harnett, Iredell, Rockingham and Sampson counties each had two.


The North Carolina Department of Labor contributed to this report.