Massachusetts workplace deaths steady in 2018, violent deaths on the rise, report finds

  • The cover of the report: “Dying for Work in Massachusetts: The Loss of Life and Limb in Massachusetts Workplaces.” Massachusetts AFL-CIO and MassCOSH

For the Gazette
Published: 4/26/2019 3:29:30 PM
Modified: 4/26/2019 3:29:20 PM

NORTHAMPTON – A new report released Thursday finds that workplace deaths in the state remained steady in 2018, though fatal violence in the workplace has risen steadily over the past three years, alarming workplace safety advocates.  

Overall, 69 Massachusetts workers were fatally injured on the job last year, including one in Hampshire County. Nine of those workers were victims of workplace violence, nearly doubling from 2017 which was double the number of workers killed by violence in 2016, according to the report titled “Dying for Work in Massachusetts: The Loss of Life and Limb in Massachusetts Workplaces.”

The report was released by the Massachusetts AFL-CIO and Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH), which is a nonprofit organization working to improve job safety and health conditions in workplaces in Massachusetts. 

Deaths caused by workplace violence are categorized as violence or injury by another person or by being attacked by an animal resulting in death. 

“Workplace violence doubling is troubling,” said Jeff Newton, a MassCOSH spokesman. “This should draw attention to the need for employers to have a plan for their employees should they feel danger from violence.”

Among those killed last year from workplace violence were two police officers who were shot, three workers killed during armed robberies, and two workers killed by a co-worker. Others include a musician killed in his recording studio and a bull rider who died from injuries sustained while bull riding. 

Of the 69 Massachusetts workers fatally injured on the job last year, 10 were firefighters who are included in the numbers because they died from work-related conditions, including cancer or a heart attack, according to the report. In 2017, 74 workers died from workplace injuries and in 2016, 70 workers lost their lives, according to date collected by MassCOSH. 

The construction industry experienced the most workers dying on the job, with 36 percent of all deaths being construction workers. The next highest group were those in the public administration sector that includes police officers and government workers, with 14 percent. The transportation and warehouse sector, mainly truck drivers, consisted of nearly 9 percent of those that died.

In total, 56 men and three women were fatally injured on the job. The average age of a victim was 51-years-old, with the youngest victim being 19 and the oldest being 91.

Transportation incidents were the leading cause of worker deaths from injuries at 29 percent of all deaths. This includes motor vehicle crashes and being struck by a vehicle or equipment. Falls, slips and trips accounted for 27 percent of deaths, according to the report. 

“There has been greater coverage of workplace events that harm worker health (since the first report in 2001),” Newton said. “Still far too many events fly under the radar of the media and the general public. However, reports like this have helped increase awareness that killer jobs are still very much a part of our current economy.” 

Using data from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and various other organizations, the MassCOSH report also highlights OSHA fatality investigations and worker safety under the Trump administration. Since 2001, MassCOSH has been releasing the report with the goal of raising awareness and passing legislation to improve worker safety. 

The group held a ceremony at the Statehouse in Boston on Friday to honor those who have died while working in Massachusetts. The event and release of the report are timed to coincide with Workers’ Memorial Day on April 28. 

In 2018, 47 towns in Massachusetts had local workers die on the job.

Among those in the Valley honored were Thomas Moszynski, 38, of Easthampton, who died in a tree-cutting incident in Amherst in December, and Mark Diaz, 19, a musician who was fatally shot at his recording studio in Holyoke in August. In Springfield, crossing guard Michele Barrows, 67, was hit and killed by car in August, and Virginia Rodriguez-Veras, 34, was shot and killed during an armed robbery at Knox Street Market in December. 

Family members of workers that lost their lives spoke at the ceremony, sharing their experiences of losing a loved one on the job. The president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, Steven A. Tolman, also was scheduled to speak, giving his perspective on the newly released data and calling for legislation outlined in the report to be passed.




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