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Are fatal workplace accidents on the rise?

In a post last spring, this blog reported that poor road conditions in West Virginia contributed to the state's high traffic fatality rate relative to other states in the country. But the state's number of traffic deaths is not the only type of accidental death where West Virginia's statistics may be going in the wrong direction.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is a division of the United States Department of Labor, fatal workplace accidents have been on the rise in West Virginia.

The BLS does not report its data in real time, so the most recent information is for the year 2013. Regardless of the time lag, however, the data is still alarming. It shows that between 2011 and 2013, the number of fatal workplace accidents steadily increased. In 2010, West Virginia had 95 deadly workplace accidents, but just one year later, that number dropped by more than half to just 43. The number of these deaths crept up to 49 in 2012 but then jumped to 60 in 2013.

By comparison, the nationwide death toll from workplace accidents decreased by roughly five percent between 2012 and 2013. In West Virginia, accidents involving transportation accounted for 40 percent of workplace fatalities. Another 25 percent of workplace deaths were related to contact with objects or equipment, and 12 percent resulted from fire or explosion. The remaining fatal workplace accidents were caused by violence and other incidents like slip-and-fall accidents.

While 60 workplace deaths in one year may not sound like a lot, anyone who has lost a loved one in this way would probably disagree. Like other types of accidental deaths, many fatal workplace accidents are preventable. When a fatal accident is caused by an employer's negligence or anyone else's failure to act with reasonable care, the victim's family members may be able to pursue compensation against all parties involved in the death.

The BLS data shows an alarming trend in the number of West Virginia's workplace deaths. Although the state has some inherently dangerous industries, like mining and quarrying, West Virginians should not have to accept death on the job without compensation as a possibility.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Workplace Fatalities in West Virginia 2013," accessed Aug. 31, 2015

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