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Coalition for Occupational Safety releases annual report on job-related deaths

May 2, 2013
By G. Michael Dobbs


More than twice the number of Massachusetts residents who lose their life in car accidents are killed on the job — a statistic the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) believes isn't very well known.

The organization has released its annual report for 2012 on worker safety, "Dying for Work in Massachusetts: The Loss of Life and Limb in Massachusetts." MassCOSH also recently honored the men and women who have died on the job with a ceremony on the steps of the State House on April 25.

"Worker deaths, injuries and illnesses are all the more tragic because they could have been prevented through adequate safety measures and deterrence through sufficiently-funded enforcement," Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, executive director of MassCOSH, said. "Workers' Memorial Day is an opportunity for people all around the world to remember the human toll of unsafe conditions and rededicate ourselves to defending workers' rights to safe, healthy jobs."

According to the report, "Thirty-two workers in Massachusetts lost their lives on the job in 2012 — most suffered fatal injuries at work. Included are seven firefighters who died from work-related cancer and heart disease. For every worker killed on the job, ten more die from occupational disease. An estimated 320 workers died in 2012 in Massachusetts from occupational disease. A conservative estimate of 1,800 workers in Massachusetts were newly diagnosed with cancers caused by workplace exposures, and 50,000 more were seriously injured. This report also includes three servicemen from Massachusetts who died in the War in Afghanistan in 2012."

According to the report, "The number of workplace fatalities in 2010 (47), 2011 (58) and 2012 (32) are relatively low by recent historical standards, but several such drops have occurred at various times over the past 26 years only to find an increase the following year (41 fatalities in 1998 followed by 91 fatalities in 1999; 49 fatalities in 2002 followed by 81 fatalities in 2003)."

In Western Massachusetts, the fatalities included James Ivanov, 19, student, West Springfield; Tyler Granfield, 28, arborist, Longmeadow; Kevin Ambrose, 55, police officer, Springfield; Jose Torres, 53, police officer, Westfield and Robert Parrott, 46, mason, Springfield.

The report noted that transportation related accidents accounted for five occupational fatalities. Falls accounted for six of the 32 deaths. Four people died in the commercial fishing industry, which the report called "most dangerous single occupation in Massachusetts."

Michael Florio of Western Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health told Reminder Publications that more accurate record keeping is playing a role in the current statistics. He noted that only the most serious injuries used to be recorded as many employees were afraid of termination if they reported injuries that were not life threatening.

Also he explained that health situations from exposure to toxic materials, some of which takes years to manifest themselves, are also being tallied.

Florio noted that additional safety training is what is needed to reduce accidents and unsafe conditions, which in turn would lower the cost of workman's compensation insurance. He noted the construction trades in the Commonwealth have stepped up safety training.

On major issue for enforcing safety regulations is that the Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) cannot monitor any municipal employees on the job, Florio said.

"For a [private] contractor, if a you go into a manhole, there are OSHA regulations. They have no jurisdiction on municipal employees," Florio said.

He added that state Rep. Angelo Puppolo is working with MassCOSH on fighting to change those regulations so OSHA can monitor the safety of municipal jobs.

The report is advocating a strengthen of OSHA regulations and enforcement on the federal level and in Massachusetts the passage of the Families of Fallen Workers Burial Bill, enforcement of the Temporary Worker Right to Know law and making the Massachusetts Workers Compensation accessible to all injured workers,

To read the full report, go to www.masscosh.org.

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