A total of 70 people died in work-related accidents in Massachusetts in 2016. That’s a 10 year high for on-the-job fatalities. In South Boston, a worker in a seafood warehouse died from exposure to ammonia fumes. A Braintree worker died from drowning while inspecting a municipal water tank. And a trench collapse killed two construction workers in the South End.
According to a recently released report by the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH), 62 of the 70 deaths occurred on the job. The remaining deaths were from occupational diseases, such as lung cancer, and all of those were firefighters. All but one of the workers who died were male. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you obtain the compensation you deserve if you’ve been injured on the job.
Since 2012, where a total of 32 work-related fatalities occurred in MA, the number of annual deaths has been rising. According to Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, the co-executive director for the National Council for Occupational safety and Health, the increase in fatalities is reflective of the increase in subcontractors and workers employed by staffing agencies. Goldstein-Gelb said that these employers are not as invested in overall worker safety.
Latino Workers are Most at Risk
In addition, Goldstein-Gelb believes the increase in work-related deaths is partly due to a decline in labor unions and an increase in undocumented workers, who rarely report unsafe working conditions out of fear of retaliation. The death rate among Latino workers is the highest of any ethnic group, with four out of every 100,000 workers dying on the job annually.
“When workers can’t speak up, then there is a greater risk that a hazard will not be identified and addressed and workers will suffer the consequences,” said Goldstein-Gelb. “The less people speak up, you will see an increase in deaths.”
And the problem isn’t just in Massachusetts. The number of people killed in work-related accidents hit a national seven-year high in 2015, at a total of 4,836 deaths. Deaths from occupational illnesses are estimated to cause a shocking 95,000 deaths in the United States every year. A MA work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a work-related accident.
MA Company Facing Manslaughter Charges in Worker Deaths
The MassCOSH report listed 12 employers that put workers at an increased risk. Among them was Atlantic Drain Services, which is currently facing manslaughter charges for the deaths of Robert Higgins and Kelvin Mattocks, the two workers who drowned in the South End trench collapse last fall. According to the Suffolk district attorney, the company had multiple safety violations prior to this tragedy, and forged documents stating that workers had attended safety training in an attempt to mislead investigators. In response to those deaths, the Boston City Council passed an ordinance requiring the submission of safety records prior to receipt of a work permit. Continue reading