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New report says workplace deaths decreased last year

Every person in Michigan has a right to a safe workplace, free from unreasonable risk of serious work related injuries or fatalities. In order to help ensure a safe workplace various agencies and organizations, including Michigan State University track the numbers of workplace injuries and deaths in Michigan. Each year the university publishes The Michigan Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation. This year it showed that the number of fatal workplace accidents declined slightly in 2011 compared to 2010. There were 145 worker fatalities in 2010 and 141 in 2011.

Construction work proved to be one of the most dangerous industries with two dozen deaths in 2011. This was followed closely by farm workers and manufacturing employees, with 22 and 17 fatal accidents respectively. A significant portion of the overall fatalities were the result of falls, with an identical number attributed to car accident fatalities. Nationwide about 5,000 workers die each year from work related accidents, while another 60,000 die from work related illnesses such as lung cancer.

In addition to the overall amount of deadly workplace accidents, these statistics are interesting in what they tell us about the level of self reporting of worker injuries by employers. In 2009 for instance, Michigan employers reported 450 burn injuries to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But a review of death certificates, hospital records and Workers' Compensation Agency documents suggests that as many 1,461 workers suffered burn injuries in that year.

This week's release of the report on the number of workplace fatalities was timely. Events are scheduled in Lansing and Detroit tomorrow to observe Worker Memorial Day.

Source: Bloomberg Business Week, "Michigan workplace deaths show slight dip in 2011," April 25, 2012

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