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13 U.S. workers are killed on the job every day, report finds

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 2) — In 2010, 4,690 workers were killed on the job – an average of 13 workers every day – and an estimated 50,000 died from occupational diseases, according to a new AFL-CIO report, “Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect.” As a comparison point, in 2009, 4,551 people died on the job. West Virginia, Wyoming, Alaska, South Dakota and North Dakota were among states with the highest workplace fatality rates while New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island were states with the lowest rates. Latino workers, especially those born outside of the United States, continue to face higher rates of workplace fatalities — 8 percent higher – than other workers.

The report notes that in 2010, more than 3.8 million workers across all industries, including state and local government, experienced work-related injuries and illnesses this year. The report includes state-by-state profiles of workers’ safety and health and features state and national information on workplace fatalities, injuries, illnesses, the number and frequency of workplace inspections, penalties, funding, staffing and public employee coverage under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act). The report also addresses delays in the standard-making process, ergonomic injuries, new and emerging hazards like pandemic flu and other infectious diseases.

“While we have made great strides in making our workplaces safer, too many women and men in this country and around the world continue to be hurt or killed on the job. Workers continue to be exposed to well-known hazards that are poorly regulated and inadequately controlled,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “The Obama administration has moved forward to strengthen protections with tougher enforcement, but business groups and Republican legislators have launched a major assault on regulations to protect people on the job. As we move forward to build an economy for our future, it’s important that we commit together to developing and issuing the kinds of rules critical to ensuring the safety of all working people.”

The report’s release came after hundreds of vigils and actions held across the country this past weekend to commemorate Workers Memorial Day on April 28.

► Also see, at Huffington Post (April 23) — End the delays that are deadly to workers (by USW President Leo Gerard) — Wear black on Saturday. It is Workers’ Memorial Day, a time devoted to commemorating those killed on the job. It’s also a time to fight to restore the shield Congress erected in 1970 to protect workers — the Occupational Safety and Health Administration  — which has been mutilated from relentless attacks by corporations and their battering ram — the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The GAO found it takes OSHA longer than seven years to issue a new work safety standard. In one case, it was 19 years. And it’s getting worse. It took 70% longer to finalize standards in the 1990s than it did in the 1980s, and another 30% longer in the 2000s. These occurred as corporations sued to stop enforcement and new mandates for review of proposed rules were stacked on top of existing ones. The GAO said defenders of the delays argue that the layers of obligations balance worker protections with employer costs. So the very corporations and Chamber of Commerce that constantly deride government red tape demand it for this special case — to delay implementation of rules to protect workers. And this is their justification: Corporate profits trump worker lives.

CHECK OUT THE UNION DIFFERENCE in Washington: higher wages, affordable health and dental care, job and retirement security.

FIND OUT HOW TO JOIN TOGETHER with your co-workers to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and a voice at work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!