Record Decline in Workplace Deaths Reported

Posted January 17, 2008 4:25 p.m. EST
Updated January 17, 2008 11:58 p.m. EST

— Fatalities from workplace accidents fell 29 percent in North Carolina last year, the largest decrease ever recorded, according to figures released Thursday by the state Department of Labor.

The number of deaths in work accidents fell from 65 in 2006 to 46 in 2007. The Department of Labor investigated 68 workplace fatalities in 2005 and 75 in 2004.

Fatalities involving medical conditions like heart attacks and strokes aren't included in the totals.

“I credit the employers and employees of our state for continuing to emphasize safety in the workplace,” Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry said in a statement. “We have noticed improvements during the past few years, but this 29 percent drop is remarkable.

“Even one fatality affects many people: the family, co-workers, the community. I want all workers to return home safe and healthy to their families, loved ones and friends.”

Of the 46 workplace fatalities last year, 20 occurred in construction, and 12 took place in manufacturing. Seven fatalities occurred in the retail and wholesale trade sectors, and three fatalities occurred in the services industry. The forestry industry had two fatalities, as did the transportation industry.

Thirty of the fatalities involved being crushed or struck by an object. Six workers suffered fatal slips or falls, while two were electrocuted and another two died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Another six workers died in various other event categories.

Wake County experienced the most fatalities with four, followed by Cumberland County with three. Nine counties had two fatalities each: Chowan, Durham, Forsyth, Franklin, Gaston, Guilford, Lee, Mecklenburg and Wilson. There were 21 counties that experienced one fatality.

Among racial groups, whites had 30 fatalities and blacks had nine. There were six Hispanic victims – a 57 percent decrease from the 14 who died in 2006 – and there was one Asian victim.

The latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show the state’s injury and illness rate had dropped from 5.7 cases for every 100 full-time workers in the private sector in 2000 to 4.0 in 2006. The national rate was 4.4 for 2006.

“The business and industry leaders of our state realize that workplace safety training pays big dividends,” Berry said. “We get to see these results in this huge reduction in workplace fatalities, but they’re seeing it every day in increased productivity and reduced workers’ compensation costs. A safe work environment contributes to economic development.”