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West Virginia Has One of the Highest Rates of Work-related Deaths in Southeastern United States

No matter what our occupation is, we assume that we will come home at the end of each workday. As we say, "See you tonight!" or think about what to make for dinner, when to walk the dog, or what time the television show starts, the underlying assumption is that we will be safe at work. Indeed, work-related injury and death are preventable, but statistics indicate that they still occur far too often. In fact, approximately 12 U.S. workers on average die each day from a work-related injury, with 4,821 U.S. workers dying in 2014 from injuries sustained at work.

At the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), researchers and funded partners study the causes of work-related deaths within various industries, occupations, and regions to inform prevention efforts. One U.S. region with a particularly high fatal injury rate is the Southeast with 5.2 work-related injury deaths per 100,000 workers, compared with 3.8 nationwide. To understand this disparity, NIOSH investigators and state health departments analyzed 2008–2011 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries on work-related injuries in 12 southeastern states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

According to their report published in the peer-reviewed journal Workplace Health & Safety, the three southeastern states that had the highest rates of work-related deaths were Arkansas at 7.2 deaths per 100,000 workers, Louisiana at 6.8, and West Virginia at 6.6. In addition, more than 20% of workers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and West Virginia worked in the high-fatality rate industries of agriculture, construction, mining, and transportation. Transportation-related events were the most common cause of work-related injury deaths, both nationally and in the Southeast, followed by contact with objects and equipment, violence, falls, exposure to harmful substances or environments, and fires and explosions. These findings indicate that more research is necessary to understand the underlying causes of the high rates of work-related injury deaths observed in these southeastern states. According to the investigators, this kind of research will provide a way for diverse partners in the southeastern United States to address these critical occupational safety and health issues. More information here.

Workplace Health & Safety Site

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