NC workplace deaths declined in 2015

Posted January 22, 2016

An accident at a downtown Raleigh construction site killed three and injured another Monday, March 23, 2015. (Photo by WWREAVES Photography)

— The number of North Carolina workers killed in on-the-job accidents dropped from 45 in 2014 to 41 last year, according to preliminary figures released Friday by the state Department of Labor.

The construction industry continues to be the most hazardous industry in the state, accounting for 12 work-related fatalities in 2015, which was seven fewer than the 19 that occurred in 2014.

"One death is too many, but the decline is encouraging, particularly in construction, where we experienced a spike in 2014," Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry said in a statement. "The department will continue its alliances with Carolinas AGC and other organizations to maximize its reach in the commercial construction industry."

Manufacturing had the second highest number of work-related deaths, with 11, two more than in 2014. The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector increased from four fatalities in 2014 to seven in 2015, while the services industry decreased from six work-related fatalities to four.

Falls from elevations accounted for the most work-related deaths with 13. Struck-by events were a close second with 12 deaths. Five workers died after being caught between objects, four were electrocuted, two died from possible asphyxiation and five died in other events.

Wake County had the most on-the-job deaths last year, with seven, including three men who were killed when scaffolding outside a downtown Raleigh high-rise collapsed last March. Three counties, including Wayne County, had three apiece, while Cumberland County was among six counties with two deaths each. There were no work-related fatalities in 77 of North Carolina’s 100 counties.

"Every work-related death in North Carolina ... is tragic and has an effect on co-workers, families and communities," Berry said. "The department will continue our outreach and training to help prevent fatalities. These efforts have always been and will continue to be my No. 1 priority as labor commissioner."

The state figures don't include deaths in work-related vehicle crashes, workplace homicides or suicides or fatalities at sites over which the state agency has no jurisdiction, such as farms with 10 or fewer employees. In 2014, for example, there were 46 worker deaths in traffic accidents and 16 from violent acts. Figures for 2015 won't be available for several months.

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  • Kathleen Newberg Jan 22, 2016
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    "Making a living shouldn't have to cost you your life. Workplace fatalities, injuries, and illnesses are preventable. Safe jobs happen because employers make the choice to fulfill their responsibilities and protect their workers."

    — Dr. David Michaels Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health