‘Death on the Job’ Report: More Workers Killed, Fewer Employer Penalties
by Mike Hall
More workers are being killed on the job, but employers who are found to have violated federal safety laws in fatality cases are paying as little as $750 in penalties for each death, according to the latest edition of the AFL-CIO’s annual report Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect.
Released today, the 17th edition of the national and state-by-state profiles on worker safety and health in the United States reveals that in 2006, 5,840 workers died from workplace injuries, compared with 5,734 in 2005. The figures show a continued and significant increase in fatalities among Latino and foreign-born workers. The year 2006 is the most recent year for which U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures are available.
The report shows that each day in 2006, 16 workers were fatally injured on the job and more than 11,200 were hurt or made sick. But the price workers pay for toiling in dangerous jobs climbs even higher when the tally includes the 50,000 to 60,000 workers who die every year from occupational diseases.
The report was released in conjunction with Workers Memorial Day, April 28, a day set aside every year to honor workers killed and hurt on the job and highlight the need for improved job safety standards.
New safety laws and protections for workers have ground to a halt under the Bush administration, says Death on the Job.
Important standards close to completion at the end of the Clinton administration have been withdrawn or repeatedly delayed. Overall, dozens of OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] and MSHA [Mine Safety and Health Administration] standards were pulled from the administration’s regulatory agenda, including MSHA standards on mine rescue teams, self-contained self-rescue devices, and escape ways and refuges which may have helped prevent the fatalities at the Sago mine.
Along with blocking new safety standards, the Bush administration has cut enforcement staff and enforcement budgets for OSHA and MSHA and turned to voluntary programs for employers to provide safe workplaces than relaying on strong enforcement of job safety laws. Even when workplace penalties are assessed, the small fines provide little deterrence, the report points out.
The dollar amounts of federal and state OSHA penalties and MSHA penalties are woefully inadequate even in cases of workplace fatalities.
The average national total penalty in fatality investigations was just $10,133. Delaware had the lowest average penalties in fatality cases, with no penalties assessed, followed by Alaska, with $750 in penalties per fatality case, and Oregon with $793 in penalties.
In 2006, fatal injuries among Hispanic workers increased by 7 percent over 2005, with 990 killed on the job, the highest number of Hispanic worker deaths ever recorded. The fatality rate among Latino workers in 2006 was 25 percent higher that the fatal injury rate for all workers.
Says AFL-CIO President John Sweeney:
Our nation’s system of rules and enforcement has fallen embarrassingly short of its goal of ensuring workplace safety. America’s workers simply can’t afford four more years of Bush administration-style cuts, rollbacks, and opposition to new safety protections. Congress and the next president must guarantee good jobs, safe jobs, for all.
Both Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) have pledged to back tough new job safety laws and worker protections if elected president. But Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has a long record of voting against strong worker protections. Click here to a download a flier that shows McCain’s votes against a bill to set field sanitation standards—including clean drinking water—for farm workers, mine safety laws, workplace ergonomics standards to prevent millions of repetitive stress injuries a year and stronger penalties against employers who violate workplace safety rules.
The report also breaks down the death and injury rates by industry, state and race; tracks trends in enforcement activities, regulations and funding; and examines other job safety statistics. Visit the AFL-CIO Workers Memorial Day site to download a copy of Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect and other important material on job safety and Workers Memorial Day.
Tags: Death On The Job , Job Safety , Workers Memorial Day , Workplace Safety , OSHA , Occupational Safety And H , MSHA , Mine Safety And Health Ad , Working Families Vote 200 , Presidential Politics
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