Workplace Fatalities Are on the Rise, Even as the Economy Improves

For the millions of people left unemployed or underemployed during the Great Recession, the opportunity to return to work is something to be celebrated. Unfortunately, the recent drop in unemployment has been accompanied by a rise in workplace injuries and fatalities.

While this might sound like the inevitable cost of returning to normal, these deaths are needless, avoidable, and alarmingly frequent. In Georgia specifically, the workplace death rate rose by as much as 70% between 2012 and 2016, with a particular spike in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Why Now?

As noted in the International Journal of Epidemiology, economic growth does eventually decrease mortality rates in a general population. First, however, a rash of occupational fatalities is tragically common. These deaths are generally attributed to the trial-and-error associated with new technology and new jobs.

The Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America notes that an economic boom brings with it a boom in construction, and with it a rise in construction accidents. This is certainly a major factor in the rising death rate, with construction work being one of the most dangerous occupations in America today.

To put it other words, there are currently millions of Americans adapting to new jobs, all at the same time. These new and returning workers have been tasked with learning unfamiliar or updated skills, under the supervision of employers who may be stretched thin and experiencing growing pains. More cynically, these employers have also become accustomed to a desperate workforce willing to risk life and limb to avoid unemployment.

Most Frequent Workplace Killers

The BLS lists the four most common occupational causes of death as:

  1. Transportation accidents
  2. Injuries inflicted by people or animals
  3. Falls, slips, and trips
  4. Exposure to harmful substances or environments.

This ranking applies both in Georgia and nationwide, although Georgia has an even higher than average rate of transportation accidents, accounting for 44% of on-the-job fatalities in the state. Naturally, vehicle operators have the highest rate of occupational death, followed by construction and maintenance workers.

Even on-the-job homicide rates, which have improved somewhat since the Great Recession, have seen a backslide in the past few years. Many people imagine the danger of violence as being limited to military and law enforcement careers, but the National Safety Council (NCS) identifies the careers with the highest death rates by homicide as:

  • Government
  • Retail
  • Leisure/Hospitality
  • Transportation/Warehousing
  • Professional/Business Services
  • Financial Activities
  • Construction
  • Manufacturing
  • Education and Health Services

Once again, transportation and construction workers find themselves at particularly high risk, but American workplaces in general remain far from violence-free.

What to Do If You’ve Lost Someone

Nobody should ever be forced to choose between their personal safety and their family’s financial security. It’s long past time for employers to abandon the idea of a disposable workforce and take responsibility for providing safe working environments.

If you’ve already lost a loved one at or because of their job, nothing can ever truly compensate for that. It is possible, however, to lift the financial burden left behind. Call the Stoddard Firm, or contact us online for a free consultation on how our dedicated professionals can help you get the settlement you need and deserve.

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