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AFL-CIO reports on high worker fatality, illness rates

As part of Workers' Memorial Week (April 22 to 29), the AFL-CIO called attention to several deadly trends in a report entitled, "Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect." Employers in New Jersey may want to think about any areas where they may be neglecting the health and safety of their employees. They are also encouraged to go online and take the National Safety Council's Safe at Work Pledge.

As for the report, it presents some startling data. In 2017, there were 5,147 worker deaths: slightly less than the 5,190 in 2016 but still much higher than the 4,836 reported the year before that. Transportation incidents were the leading cause of death, being responsible for 2,077 deaths. This was followed by slips, trips and falls (887 deaths) and workplace violence (807). Violence also factored in 29,000 cases of injuries resulting in time off work.

Work-related illnesses and disease kill around 95,000 workers annually in the U.S. This comes to 275 workers every day. Recently, Public Citizen has been pushing for legislation that would address the issue of heat stress. During the July 4th weekend in 2018, 2.2 million workers were exposed to intense heat. Heat stress was behind 815 worker deaths between 1992 and 2017 in addition to some 70,000 injury cases.

Employers are not always to blame for accidents, though. Whatever the cause of an injury, victims may be able to file a workers' compensation claim and be covered for medical expenses and some of the wages they lost. While they are not required to prove that anyone was negligent, they may face opposition from their employer, in which case they have the option of mounting an appeal. Litigation might be considered as a last resort. In any event, victims may do well to retain an attorney.

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