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Worker Deaths from Falling Objects on the Rise in the U.S.

Jason Reese

Synopsis

  • Many American workers, regardless of industry or occupation, are exposed to daily hazards during performance of their job tasks.
  • Authorities say a northwestern Indiana worker died from blunt force trauma in a work-related accident involving building materials that apparently toppled onto him.
  • Struck-by injuries are on a list called the “Fatal Four” and are deaths produced by forcible contact or impact between a worker and an object or piece of equipment. These unfortunate incidences are often preventable and most often happen to construction workers.
  • When working conditions are not regularly monitored for safety and compliance per standards of the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA), workers are put at risk of suffering a fatal injury.
  • And with workplace fatalities on the rise, every employer needs to be reminded that it remains their responsibility to ensure a safe work environment for their workers.

Indiana Worker Killed When Struck-by Building Materials

Authorities say a worker in Lake County died in an accident when building materials apparently toppled onto him. The local coroner’s office noted that the 23-year-old building materials supply worker died on the scene from blunt force trauma. Police believe building supplies had toppled onto the man and some struck him in the head. As investigators with the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA) continue their review of the incident, the wrongful death and workplace injury attorneys at Wagner Reese will be thinking of the victim’s family, friends, and co-workers during this difficult time.

Preventing a Workplace Struck-by Accident

Occupational fatalities caused by struck-by hazards remain a serious, growing concern for both employees and workers. These injuries, too often, end up deadly when forcible contact or impact between a worker and an object or piece of equipment occurs. Struck-by hazards are categorized as follows:

  • Struck-by flying object
  • Struck-by falling object
  • Struck-by swinging object
  • Stuck-by rolling object

To prevent a struck-by hazard or accident at work, never position yourself between moving and fixed objects and always wear high-visibility clothes near equipment and vehicles.

Struck-by worker fatalities rank No. 2 on the list commonly referred to by IOSHA as the Fatal Four. This list categorizes and accounts for the activities that relate to nearly 60 percent of construction workplace deaths every year. The leading causes of private sector worker deaths (excluding highway collisions) in the construction industry were falls, followed by struck by object, electrocution, and caught-in/between.

  1. Falls: 384 out of 991 total deaths in construction (38.7%)
  2. Struck-by Object: 93 (9.4%)
  3. Electrocutions: 82 (8.3%)
  4. Caught-in/between*: 72 (7.3%)

(*This category includes construction workers killed when caught-in or compressed by equipment or objects, and struck, caught, or crushed in collapsing structure, equipment, or material)

In general, there were 4,693 worker fatalities in private industry in calendar year 2016, many in the construction industry or those who perform with materials similar to those that struck the Lake County worker referenced earlier.

Eliminating the Fatal Four would save 631 workers’ lives in America every year. Employers should recognize and mitigate common struck-by hazards that exist in and around typical work sites and educate workers on how you to protect themselves from those hazards.

Fatal Work Injuries Increase for Third Consecutive Year

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported there were a total of 5,190 fatal work injuries recorded in the United States in 2016, a 7 percent increase from the 4,836 fatal injuries reported in 2015. The Bureau says this is the third consecutive increase in annual workplace fatalities and the first time more than 5,000 fatalities have been recorded by the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) since 2008. In addition:

  • Work injuries involving transportation incidents remained the most common fatal event in 2016, accounting for 40 percent (2,083).
  • 21.1 percent of worker deaths were in construction — that is, one in five.
  • Violence and other injuries by persons or animals increased 23 percent to become the second-most common fatal event in 2016.
  • Two other events with large changes were exposure to harmful substances or environments, which rose 22 percent, and fires and explosions, which declined 27 percent.
  • Worker deaths in America are down-on average, from about 38 worker deaths a day in 1970 to 14 a day in 2016.

Our readers don’t need us to tell them that those statistics are more than alarming and it remains obvious that workers need to have safer environments.

Workers Are Protected by Regulations Put in Place to Keep Them Safe

Indiana workers have the right to a workplace that undergoes regular inspections, and they also have the right to report errors, dangers, and injuries without the fear of retaliation from an employer, discrimination, or the loss of a job. Workers are entitled to see full reports of the safety inspections done in their workplace, so they have the information they need to stay safe but the simple truth remains that it is the responsibility of every employer to ensure a safe work environment for their workers. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, regulations have been in place since 1970 to ensure that workers are entitled to an environment and conditions that do not pose a risk of serious bodily harm. IOSHA is continually working to improve working conditions, educate employers and employees, and pass legislation to keep working environments safer.

In the case of a workplace fatality, death benefits are secured under Indiana’s workers’ compensation laws but that is often not enough to cover the surviving family members’ living expenses in the absence of their loved one. A wrongful death claim in these cases can help a family carry on, even without the ongoing income and support of their loved one. In the event of a work-related accident that results in a wrongful death, the benefactors of the deceased person could be eligible for funeral expenses and burial costs, as well as 500 weeks of death benefit payments. These payments may be available in a lump sum, or in structured payments.

We Support Your Work Injury or Wrongful Death Claim

If you have been injured in your workplace due to employer negligence, the work injury attorneys at Wagner Reese are here to support your workers’ compensation claim. If you have lost a loved one due to a workplace accident or employer negligence, wrongful death damages can be awarded. We put decades of experience to work for you, and we won’t collect any fees unless your case is settled or won.

Connect with us by submitting our online form and our attorneys will review your information and respond promptly. If you wish to speak directly with us, please call (888) 204-8440.

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