Struck-by incidents and falls caused the largest number of work-related deaths in the Tar Heel state in 2018, based on preliminary information released today by the state Department of Labor. Struck-by incidents accounted for 14 work-related deaths while falls accounted for nine. There were 39 work-related fatalities that fell under the jurisdiction of the NCDOL’s Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Division in 2018, one less than in 2017.
The state Occupational Fatality Inspection Review (OFIR) figures exclude certain fatalities that fall outside its jurisdictional authority such as traffic accidents, which account for nearly half of all work-related deaths, as well as homicides and suicides that are investigated by law enforcement agencies. The count also excludes fatalities investigated by federal OSHA, sole proprietorships and other exemptions in which the department does not have the authority to investigate, such as on farms with 10 or fewer employees.
“Each of these individuals are valued members of North Carolina’s workforce and each death is a major blow to their families and communities,” Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry said. “It is important that we track these fatalities and create awareness of these common work-related hazards so that we can better focus our resources and work to prevent future incidents.”
The construction industry continues to be the most hazardous industry in the state with 16 work- related deaths in 2018, one less than in 2017. The N.C. Department of Labor places special emphasis on hazardous industries like construction to maximize its resources and pinpoint problem areas.
Part of the OSH Division strategy to reduce work-related fatalities includes encouraging employer and employee participation in various safety and health outreach activities. The OSH Division also works with businesses and organizations that represent some of the most hazardous industries through partnerships and alliances to heighten industry awareness and assist with education and training.
The OSH Division has participated in a federal OSHA campaign to prevent falls in construction for the past five years. This year the National Safety Stand-Down to prevent falls takes place May 6–10.
“It is encouraging to see a decrease in falls from 13 in 2017 to nine in 2018, and we hope this downward trend will continue,” said Kevin Beauregard, director of the NCDOL OSH Division. “I encourage all construction companies to participate in the stand-down and focus on fall prevention efforts on construction sites to help reduce these preventable deaths”
“In addition, the OSH Division will increase construction-related activity in some counties in the spring, especially those identified as having high activity or multiple fatalities,” Beauregard said.
The manufacturing industry had the second highest number of work-related deaths with eight, a decrease from 11 in 2017. Transportation and public utilities increased from one in 2017 to four in 2018. Another notable increase involved the services industry, which increased from zero to four in 2018.
Government decreased from five in 2017 to one. The wholesale trade industry decreased from one in 2017 to zero.
There were no work-related fatalities in 69 of North Carolina’s 100 counties. Forsyth, Guilford, Lee, Mecklenburg, New Hanover, Scotland, Stokes and Wake experienced two each. Twenty-three counties experienced one fatality.
Whites accounted for 21 of the 39 work-related fatalities. Blacks accounted for eight and Hispanics for nine. There was one Native American fatality. Men accounted for 37 of the 39 deaths. Women accounted for two workplace deaths.
Federal figures compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with cooperation of NCDOL, include all work-related fatalities. The federal figures can be found on the BLS website at https://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/tgs/2017/iiffw37.htm.
While fatalities continue to fluctuate, North Carolina’s injury and illness rate has steadily declined since 2001 and remains at a historic low 2.3 per 100 full-time workers for 2017. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles the injury and illness rate data. To learn more, tune in to Inside NC Labor.
Businesses may call 1-800-NC-LABOR to learn more about free safety training opportunities provided by NCDOL or visit www.labor.nc.gov.
*Note: March 6, 2019 – Two more fatalities were added to CY 2018 which brings the total to 41; one occurred 7/6/18 (employer failed to report) and the other one 12/15/18 (via “Report of Investigation by Medical Examiner”). Both were added 3/5/19.