Each year, on April 28, we pause to remember those workers who were fatally injured on the job. The Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH), an advocacy organization that unites workers, unions and community groups with environmental and health activists to end dangerous work conditions, to organize for safe, secure jobs, and to advocate for healthy communities issues an annual report on workplace fatalities. MassCOSH’s 2014 report, Dying for Work in Massachusetts: The Loss of Life and Limb in Massachusetts, contains the following realities:
- Forty-eight workers in Massachusetts lost their lives on the job. The vast majority of workers who lost their lives on the job were men (43). Five of those killed were women (factory worker, retail, teacher, hospitality worker, truck driver).
- Falls of all types caused almost one-fifth (9 out of 48) of all occupational fatalities in Massachusetts in 2013. Six of the nine falls occurred in the construction industry.
- Recent data compiled by ProPublica found that Massachusetts temporary workers had a 36% percent greater risk of being injured on the job than permanent workers.
- Each week an average of 28 municipal workers in the Commonwealth suffer injuries serious enough to be out of work for five or more days, according to data from the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) The DIA notes that this is a conservative estimate, as the data doesn’t include all municipal workers.
What can be done about these sobering facts? Do we just have to accept that some jobs are more dangerous than others and that workplace accidents are inevitable? The answer is a resounding NO. Here are some actions you can take:
If you’re a construction employer, attend one of DLS and OSHA’s free seminars on fall protection in construction.
If you’re a staffing agency, join DLS and OSHA for a free seminar on what you need to know about state and OSHA requirements when employing temporary workers.
If you’re a municipal employer, contact the DLS Workplace Safety and Health Program and request a voluntary technical assistance inspection of your water department, wastewater treatment plant, fire station, police department firing range, municipal light plant, public works department and other municipal facilities.
If you’re a school administrator, make sure you know how to manage your asbestos containing building materials. DLS can help. Visit www.mass.gov/dols/ahera for guidance material.
If you’re a state agency, get to know your Secretariat Safety and Health Coordinator established under the requirements of Executive Order 511 and ensure you have a fully-functioning labor/management health and safety committee.
If you’re an employer in any high hazard industry; such as manufacturing, healthcare, and construction, contact the DLS Onsite Consultation Program, a free consultation service designed to help employers recognize and control potential safety and health hazards at their worksites, improve their safety and health program, and assist in training employees.
Former U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis once remarked, “…making a living should never mean dying.” Let’s work together—employers and employees; labor and management—to end these workplace tragedies. To learn more, visit www.mass.gov/dols or www.osha.gov.
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