A report released by the Bureau of Labor statistics earlier this month draws attention to a disquieting trend: though the number of workplace deaths fell nationally last year, here in Oregon the numbers went up.
According to reporting by The Oregonian, the BLS report found that “the number of Oregon work-related deaths increased 12 percent, from 43 to 49, between 2012 and 2013. Yet the number of workplace fatalities decreased by 5 percent nationwide to 4,400.” As someone who has written extensively about Oregon industrial accidents and the importance of workplace safety I find both the numbers and the overall trend disturbing.
The largest single source of Oregon workplace deaths was crashes involving cars, trucks and other vehicles. “Safety regulators tied a majority of the Oregon deaths to traffic- or equipment-related accidents. The report says 19 workers died as a result of vehicular crashes and 12 people were killed by machines or other objects.” The report’s accounting system also takes note of police and firefighters killed or injured in the line of duty. The relatively large number of vehicle crashes (accounting for more than one-third of all workplace deaths) is worth special attention. Under Oregon law there may be a case for a wrongful death action by surviving loved ones if a third party is found to be at fault in the incident.
According to the newspaper, most of the Oregon workplace deaths took place in the “natural resources, construction, transportation and administrative and support services” sectors (the last category is described by the paper as “an umbrella industry that includes trash collectors and cleaning companies”). Natural resources, which includes the logging industry, along with transport and construction are all areas that involve danger and where workplace safety is critical. I have written about the potential dangers of the logging industry on many occasions and also of the hazards that poorly-maintained semi-trucks and over-worked truck drivers pose to everyone who uses our roads and highways. Oregon law regarding industrial accidents requires employers to conduct proper maintenance on all workplace equipment (including vehicles) or to ensure that vendors carry out the proper maintenance and that the people operating the equipment receive appropriate training. With fatality numbers going up, one can question whether these laws are being universally observed.
As an Oregon industrial accidents lawyer I am saddened to see that the number of workplace deaths in our state rose last year after declining from 2011 to 2012. The BLS report is a reminder of how important it is for all of us to remain alert to possible workplace dangers and to hold employers accountable when they fail to do the right thing and protect their employees.
The Oregonian: More Oregonians died on the job last year, new report shows